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The Eighth Doctor meets Charley Pollard on the R101
Paul McGann is back as the Eighth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’…and it’s about time!
In 2001, Paul McGann reprises his role as the Doctor from ‘The TV Movie’ in 1996. I felt it was a shame that Paul didn’t have a longer run in his tenure as the Doctor on TV. I liked it his Doctor from watching ‘The TV Movie’ and hoped that there would be more adventures with him in ‘Doctor Who’.
Thankfully, with the discovery of Big Finish, I found that Paul had indeed reprised his role as the Doctor in a number of audio dramas in ‘Doctor Who’. This really pleased me and I gradually got into listening to some of Paul’s audio adventures, finding out more about who he is as the Eighth Doctor.
The first two audio stories I purchased with Paul McGann’s Doctor were ‘Storm Warning’ and ‘Sword of Orion’. I especially wanted to listen to these two adventures since I heard the trailer for ‘Storm Warning’ after listening to ‘The Mutant Phase’ and also that ‘Sword of Orion’ had the Cybermen in it.
The first adventure, ‘Storm Warning’ is a great introduction to the Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish audios. There have been other stories set before ‘Storm Warning’ since then. But this was the first official ‘Doctor Who’ audio drama made with Paul McGann by Big Finish since he did ‘The TV Movie’.
‘Storm Warning’ is a story about the Eighth Doctor travelling in the TARDIS and eventually ending up on his Majesty’s airship, the R101, in October 1930. The Doctor knows that a terrible disaster is going to happen with the R101 as the ship, on its maiden voyage to India, is to crash down in France.
This is a four-part story by Alan Barnes, who was a former editor of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’. Alan is no stranger to the Eighth Doctor as he wrote many of his comic book adventures in the magazine with Izzy Sinclair. Here Alan sets the adventures with the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard on audio.
I really liked that first scene with Paul McGann’s Doctor in the TARDIS when he’s looking through the library for the TARDIS manual. It’s such a lovely scene where the Doctor goes through all the books in his collection, including an Agatha Christie novel and also reading a diary account by Mary Shelley.
Eventually the TARDIS detects something in the time vortex and the Doctor soon discovers the ship under attack by some monsters called vortisaurs. It was amusing when the Doctor is talking to himself. He remarks that it is the first sign of madness before he sets the TARDIS to leave the vortex.
The TARDIS soon arrives inside the R101 airship and the Doctor begins to explore. It isn’t long before the TARDIS gets ejected out into the sky and the Doctor realises his mistake. He then decides to explore before he bumps into Charley Pollard, an Edwardian adventuress who is his new companion.
I was puzzled about the R101 airship and wondering whether it was an historical event that actually happened. Of course, Alan Barnes makes it clear in the CD sleeve notes that the R101 airship is not real and a fictitious event. This was a relief and it allowed me to enjoy the story when I listened to it.
Paul McGann is superb as the Eighth Doctor in this audio adventure. Paul’s enthusiasm shines throughout this audio adventure and it’s like he hasn’t left the series since doing ‘The TV Movie’. This is where it should have carried on from ‘The TV Movie’, as Paul McGann’s Doctor is so fantastic!
I enjoyed Paul’s Doctor’s curiosity and his sense of adventure throughout this tale. He’s got a cheeky sense of humour and clearly likes Charley from the first moment he meets her. He also gets to show a sense of urgency in his Doctor, especially when things start to go out of control aboard this airship.
India Fisher makes her first appearance as Charlotte Pollard or Charley to her friends. Charley claims herself as an Edwardian adventuress, who stows away aboard the R101 airship as shipman Murchford. She wants to have fun and adventure away from her ordinary life back home in England.
Charley hopes to reach Singapore at the end of the R101’s maiden voyage, until she runs into the Doctor. Charley is sceptical at first about the Doctor’s claims to being a time traveller and an alien. But soon Charley and the Doctor become good friends as they trust each other so intimately in this.
Gareth Thomas guest stars as Lord Tamworth in this audio adventure. Gareth is well-known to ‘Blake’s 7’ fans for playing Blake himself. He also starred in the two TV series ‘Children of the Stones’ and ‘Star Maidens’. I did greatly enjoy Gareth’s performance as Tamworth during this audio drama.
Lord Tamworth is in charge of the R101 airship’s maiden voyage from England to India. Tamworth is pretty patriotic and proud of being a part of the British Empire in 1930. But Tamworth is also hiding a secret regarding this voyage, as very soon the R101 arrives at the rendezvous point halfway to India.
As well as Gareth Thomas, there are also two actors who have become Dalek operators for the new series of ‘Doctor Who’. These are Nicholas Pegg and Barnaby Edwards. I’ve met these two chaps at conventions. They’re very friendly and they’ve also directed some ‘Doctor Who’ audios by Big Finish.
Nicholas Pegg guest stars as Lt. Col Frayling aboard the airship R101. Frayling is apprehensive about this voyage from the start since the airship hasn’t completed its trial. He lays his concerns to Lord Tamworth, but Tamworth dismisses them. Frayling is a pretty mild-mannered person on this voyage.
Barnaby Edwards guest stars as Rathbone, who is South African. It transpires that he is a member of the British Secret Service who is on a special mission concerning the R101. Rathbone is a sly devil who is determined to have his own way. He mistreats the Doctor and Charley as enemy spies in this.
There’s also Hylton Collins as Chief Steward Weeks aboard the airship R101. Weeks is a down-to-earth soul who suspects that shipman Murchford is not as he seems before he turns out to be Charley Pollard in disguise. Weeks helps the Doctor with sorting out the vortisaur outside the airship.
Helen Goldwyn voices the alien Triskele in this audio adventure of ‘Doctor Who’. The Triskele are an interesting alien race in this story as they’re divided into three categories. There are the engineers; the Uncreators and the Lawgivers. Things get tense when a Lawgiver gets killed by Rathbone in this.
I found the first two episodes easy and gripping to listen to in this story. But by the time we came to the third episode, I did feel I lost my way somewhat. There was a lot of talking between the Doctor, Tamworth and Frayling with the Triskele and not enough action which is what I was expecting in this.
The story ends with the Doctor and Charley surviving the destruction of the R101 airship in France. The Doctor knows that Charley should have died in the crash. But he soon accepts Charley into her company as they both ride Ramsey the Vortisaur and head back to the TARDIS for some adventures.
‘Storm Warning’ has been a pretty good introduction to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed listening to this adventure as well as Paul’s Doctor meeting Charley Pollard for the first time. I looked forward to what happens to the Doctor and Charley next.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 2, there’s a trailer for the second story with the Eighth Doctor and Charley called ‘Sword of Orion’.
‘Storm Warning’ rating – 8/10
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