‘THE SIXTH DOCTOR: THE LAST ADVENTURE’
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The End of the Sixth Doctor
Colin Baker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ comes to an end at last!
I’ve enjoyed listening to ‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’ – a box set of four linked episodes featuring the demise of Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor! After all these years, Colin has at last allowed his era of ‘Doctor Who’ to come to an end and has Big Finish to thank for a good ‘big finish’!
In the TV series, Colin didn’t have a proper regeneration to end his era on the show, simply because he didn’t want to. Colin had been badly treated by the executive heads of the BBC at the time in the 1980s, thus why the regeneration featured in ‘Time and the Rani’ was rather shabbily handled on TV.
But Big Finish aren’t like that, as they’ve treated Colin Baker’s Doctor wonderfully well and have given him plenty of life and adventures to enjoy in his era of the series. It’s therefore fitting that Big Finish have produced this lavishly brilliant set of four episodes on the story of the Sixth Doctor’s end.
The box set of ‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’ has been presented in the same style as ‘The Light at the End’, ‘The Worlds of Doctor Who’ and the ‘Novel Adaptation’ box sets. There are wonderful behind-the-scenes photos of the cast, writers’ notes and an introduction by Colin Baker!
I’ve had the CD box set of ‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’ signed by Colin Baker at the ‘Dimensions 2015’ convention in Newcastle, October 2015. I’ve also had the CD box set signed by Michael Jayston (the Valeyard) at the ‘Regenerations 2016’ convention in Swansea, September 2016.
The box-set is a five-disc set, with the four episodes on the first four discs and with a behind-the-scenes documentary on Disc 5. The four episodes are as follows. There’s ‘The End of the Line’, ‘The Red House’, ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘The Brink of Death’. All four episodes are grippingly exciting to listen to.
1. ‘THE END OF THE LINE’
This first episode of the box set is by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris. It features Colin Baker as the Doctor with Miranda Raison as Constance Clarke, his companion for this episode only in the box set.
Constance is a WREN from 1940s Britain during World War Two. She first met the Doctor in the story called ‘Criss-Cross’. The Doctor and Constance have travelled for a fair while by the time of this story.
In this episode, the Doctor and Constance find themselves in a foggy place where there’s a commuter train that’s lost its way. The passengers aboard are terrified out of their wits in the story.
The Doctor and Constance meet up with and rescue Tim Hope, a mild-mannered ‘legal clerk’ who loses his way from the train. They soon return to find the train very savagely wrecked and destroyed.
A while later, the Doctor, Constance and Tim find another train with all the passengers aboard, except one, safe and sound. But as the Doctor discovers, not everything and everyone is as it seems.
This was quite a gripping, tense and atmospheric episode to listen to in this box set. I had no idea what was going on in this story from the story and it got very interesting as I listened to it further on.
The concept of the train at an interchange that is a junction between parallel universes was intriguing. From reading the writing notes, it was so intriguing where the inspiration stemmed from.
Colin Baker delivers a fantastic performance as the Doctor in this episode. I like it when he tries to keep everybody together, has a good relationship with Constance and faces his arch-nemesis in this.
Miranda Raison is wonderful as Constance Clarke. I’ve listened to her first three adventures with the Sixth Doctor on audio and she is fast becoming a competent and so engaging companion to listen to.
Anthony Howell guest stars as the mild-mannered Tim Hope in this. It was a delight to hear Anthony in this audio, having seen him in BBC’s ‘Wives & Daughters’ and heard him in the other Big Finish audio stories of ‘Doctor Who’.
Chris Finney guest stars as Keith Potter, a train spotter that the Doctor, Constance and Tim come across in the fog. Keith’s an interesting character and there’s a surprising twist with him in the story.
Ony Uhiara guest stars as Alice Lloyd, another of the passengers aboard the train. It was quite frightening when Alice started getting mad as she smashed the windows and lose control of herself.
Hamish Clark guest stars as Norman, a ticket collector aboard the train. I was pleased to hear Hamish as he played Duncan in ‘Monarch of the Glen’ and was in ‘The Well-Mannered War’ with Tom Baker.
Maggie Service guest stars as Hillary Ratchett, another passenger aboard the train. Hillary equally gave me the scares, when it transpired she murdered one of the Daves and she also went bonkers.
It was a shocking thrill and a twist when the Master made an appearance in this episode and he was using Keith Potter’s body as an avatar for his purposes. Thankfully the Doctor and Constance survive!
‘The End of the Line’ is a great claustrophobic adventure with the Doctor and Constance set on a train in a foggy place. I wondered where the story would go next and how it will reach its conclusion.
It was a shock and thrill when Michael Jayston as the Valeyard made an appearance in this episode…
‘The End of the Line’ rating – 8/10
2. ‘THE RED HOUSE’
This second episode of the box set is by Alan Barnes. It features Colin Baker as the Doctor with India Fisher as Charley Pollard, his companion for this episode only. It was so terrific to hear Charley again!
Charley is normally the companion to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’. But Charley did spend a period of time and adventures with Colin Baker’s Doctor too!
It was after she left the Eighth Doctor that Charley met the Sixth Doctor in a story called ‘The Condemned’. This tale is set during those adventures Charley has with the Sixth Doctor in the series.
At this point in their travels, the Doctor doesn’t know who Charley and that she’s from his future. Charley must never tell the Doctor who she truly is since it would cause damage to the web of time.
In this episode, the Doctor and Charley visit a place where werewolves reign. It’s not clear as to whether this is set on Earth or on an alien planet. But it’s on this island that is far from the mainland.
‘Doctor Who’ has tackled werewolves before since they did a TV episode called ‘Tooth and Claw’ with David Tennant. This is a different take on the werewolves as they roaming around on the island.
I must admit this story was pretty complex to listen to, especially with the different packs of werewolves fighting each other on the island. But it was very enjoyable and so disturbing to listen to.
The Red House featured in this story is occupied by a Dr. Paignton (or Dr. Pain as the werewolves call her). Inside it’s like a torture chamber where people are being experimented on to be werewolves.
I was pleased to hear India Fisher as Charley Pollard in this adventure. Writer Alan Barnes writes well for Charley in this adventure, since he knows the character inside out and had originally created her.
I enjoyed the chemistry shared between Colin Baker’s Doctor and India Fisher’s Charley in this episode. It’s quite different to the relationship between Eight and Charley, but it is pretty refreshing.
I found it funny when the Doctor his multi-coloured coat to Charley and he’s coat-less for most of the episode. He gets involved with a pack of wolves whilst Charley is experimented on at the Red House.
Andree Bernard guest stars as Dr. Paignton. It seems like Paignton is a mad woman since he conducts these experiments on humans to turn them into werewolves and seems to do it with relish.
Dr. Paignton has werewolf policemen and women working for her at the Red House. There’s Ashley McGuire as the Sergeant and Andree Bernard as the Constable and they seem too keen on their job.
There’s also a pack of rebel werewolves that includes Rory Keenan as Ugo, Jessie Buckley as Lina and Kieran Hodgson as Arin. The werewolves in this story get affected by sunlight instead of moonlight.
Michael Jayston makes a proper appearance as the Valeyard in this episode compared to the previous one. He forms an interesting relationship with Charley, considering he knows her very well.
‘The Red House’ is quite a bloodcurdling episode full of werewolves in it. I’m not sure I would call it a favourite out of the box-set, but it was great fun to listen to especially with the Doctor and Charley.
The Doctor still doesn’t know that it’s the Valeyard who’s behind all of these endeavours of his…
‘The Red House’ rating – 7/10
3. ‘STAGE FRIGHT’
This third episode of the box set is by Matt Fitton. It features Colin Baker as the Doctor with Lisa Greenwood as Philippa ‘Flip’ Jackson, his companion for this story. I loved listening to ‘Stage Fright’!
Flip Jackson first met the Doctor in the story called ‘The Crimes of Thomas Brewster’. She eventually joined the Doctor as a companion in ‘The Curse of Davros’. This takes place during their adventures.
I must admit I haven’t known Flip that very well as I’ve only listened to ‘The Curse of Davros’ with her in it. But I like her as a character and she seems to suit well and bounces off Colin Baker’s Doctor.
Flip is a modern-day girl from 21st century London. It was interesting to hear her in this episode, as she and the Doctor visit Victorian London. Flip sometimes seems out of place with being in that era.
This episode also features the return of Christopher Benjamin as Henry Gordon Jago and Trevor Baxter as Professor George Litefoot. Both were in the TV story called ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’.
Now you may be surprised that Jago & Litefoot are in this episode with Colin Baker’s Doctor. But the two gentlemen have met the Sixth Doctor before, since he was in their spin-off show ‘Jago & Litefoot’.
Jago & Litefoot were also travelling companions with the Sixth Doctor for a time in the stories ‘Voyage to Venus’ and ‘Voyage to the New World’. It’s fitting to have these two men in the episode.
I liked it when the Doctor and Flip find Jago & Litefoot at the Red Tavern pub. It was also fun hearing how Flip, Jago & Litefoot interacted with the Doctor as his friends from various backgrounds.
Lisa Bowerman makes an appearance as Ellie Higson, the barmaid at the Red Tavern pub. Ellie is a regular character from the ‘Jago & Litefoot’ series, so it was nice to have her appear in this episode.
But the best highlight of the episode is Michael Jayston as the Valeyard, who finally makes a confrontation with the Doctor. He also conducts one of his most bizarre and deadliest schemes ever.
The Valeyard uses the New Regency Theatre owned by Mr. Jago to perform certain plays with certain young actors in them. The plays are remarkably familiar as the Valeyard is playing the Doctor.
I did wonder what the point of all this was as the Valeyard was draining the life-force out of the young actors playing his companions. It’s the Valeyard’s method of weakening the Doctor somehow.
I really like the scenes where the Doctor shares with Flip about regeneration and when he shares about what and who the Valeyard is. It stresses the personal battle between him and the Valeyard.
I like it when Flip and Litefoot encourage the Doctor not to be so downhearted with having ‘a dark side’ to cope with. I like Flip’s references to ‘Star Wars’ and when she sings nursery rhymes on stage.
‘Stage Fright’ has to be my favourite episode out of the four in the box set with the Sixth Doctor’s demise. This episode also sets things up very nicely for the final instalment leading to a regeneration.
The Valeyard is still out there on the run and seems to have all the power that he needs…
‘Stage Fright’ rating – 10/10
4. ‘THE BRINK OF DEATH’
This fourth and final episode of the box set is by Nicholas Briggs. It features Colin Baker as the Doctor with Bonnie Langford as Mel, his companion for this story. The story of the Sixth Doctor ends in this!
I braced myself with listening to this final episode of the box-set. I knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster and this was the dramatic showdown between the Doctor and the Valeyard.
I wondered how the Sixth Doctor’s story would end in this episode of the box set. Nick Briggs starts the story by having the Doctor dead already. This was a shock and a very disturbing concept to take in.
The story has the Doctor saving Mel when they end up on the wrong place. When in the TARDIS, the Doctor’s place is shockingly switched with the Valeyard’s. The Valeyard has now become the Doctor.
Mel also seems to have accepted that the Valeyard is the Doctor without question. This was pretty disturbing as I wondered what the Valeyard had done to make it happen and to have changed Mel.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is trapped inside something cold and empty before he realises he’s on board the Celestial Intervention Agency Space Station. He is found by a Time Lady technician called Genesta.
The Celestial Intervention Agency Space Station is where the Doctor was put on trial in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. I found it very fitting to have the Doctor back at this place. He soon finds that he’s dying.
It was great to hear Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush in this story. Mel first appeared in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker, although they had many adventures in the Big Finish audios since then.
I was rather saddened that Mel didn’t have many scenes with the Doctor in this episode, since she was mostly with the Valeyard. But Mel was with the Doctor in the lead up to ‘Time and the Rani’.
Liz White guest stars as Genesta, the Time Lady who finds the Doctor inside the Matrix aboard the space station. Genesta has a Northern accent, as she spent time in Yorkshire when she was young.
I like how Nick Briggs ties all the loose ends up in terms of how this episodes leads into the circumstances of the Doctor’s regeneration in ‘Time and the Rani’. For me, it has been well-handled.
I also liked the references made to the previous episodes of this box-set with the Valeyard’s plan. It’s explained what the Valeyard was doing in ‘The End of the Line’, ‘The Red House’ and ‘Stage Fright’.
It soon transpires that the Doctor made a mistake when he decided that he and Mel should not head for Lakertya. That is the planet where the Doctor would very soon regenerate in ‘Time and the Rani’.
The Doctor inside Genesta’s TARDIS decides to change his mind as he makes telepathic contact with his TARDIS to make him change course to Lakertya. This would of course mean the ending of his life.
I liked the bitter confrontation between the Doctor and the Valeyard in this episode. The Doctor manages to outwit the Valeyard on his schemes and the Valeyard is gobsmacked that he is beaten.
The episode ends with the Doctor and Mel in the TARDIS being hit by radiation beams from Lakertya. The Doctor accepts his fate as he sees his future self and willingly goes on to regenerate and live on!
I’m pleased when Colin Baker (with Sylvester McCoy) said those final words, “I will regenerate!”
‘The Brink of Death’ rating – 9/10
Disc 5 is a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of ‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’. This looks into each of the four episodes in turn and has behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. First, there’s an introduction given by producer David Richardson about this box-set’s origins.
There’s then a look into ‘The End of the Line’. There are interviews with co-writer Paul Morris, Colin Baker, Miranda Raison, Anthony Howell, Chris Finney, Ony Uhiara, Hamish Clark and Maggie Service. It was interesting that this episode was the first recorded to feature the Sixth Doctor and Constance.
Next, there’s a look into ‘The Red House’. There are interviews with writer Alan Barnes, India Fisher, Michael Jayston, Andree Bernard, Kieran Hodgson, etc. I enjoyed the comments made about Charley’s relationship with the Sixth Doctor in this and Michael Jayston’s comments on the Valeyard.
After that, there’s a look into ‘Stage Fright’. There are interviews with Lisa Greenwood and Colin Baker, Christopher Benjamin and Michael Jayston; Trevor Baxter and Lisa Bowerman and director Nicholas Briggs. Apparently, Nick Briggs hadn’t written the last episode yet when directing ‘Stage Fright’.
Finally, there’s a look into ‘The Brink of Death’. There are interviews with Colin Baker, writer/director Nicholas Briggs, Bonnie Langford, Liz White, etc. I enjoyed it when Nick Briggs explained the writing process of ‘The Brink of Death’ and how he links it into that first scene of ‘Time and the Rani’ on TV.
The documentary ends with a nice note by Colin Baker on how he’s finally given into his reluctance and actually doing a regeneration story. I’m pleased Colin has done his regeneration story through Big Finish, as it completes the Sixth Doctor story in ‘Doctor Who’ and he’s received his heroic ending.
‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’ has been an excellent box-set of ‘Doctor Who’ to feature the end of the Sixth Doctor era. I’m pleased Big Finish produced this box-set of four episodes for Colin Baker’s end, since they’ve cared for and nurtured his Doctor over the years since working for them.
There are still plenty of Big Finish audios to enjoy with Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor! But it’s very good that Big Finish have somehow managed to dispel the anxiety of ‘Doctor Who’ fans about the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration and Colin Baker’s swansong in this has been very worthwhile to listen to.
‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’ rating – 10/10
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