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Cybermen, the Brigadier and Sam Bishop with the Ninth Doctor
This is probably the most exciting anthology in ‘The Ninth Doctor Adventures’ by Big Finish! 😀
Having checked out ‘Ravagers’, ‘Respond to All Calls’ and ‘Lost Warriors’, I was keen to check out ‘Old Friends’, the fourth ‘Doctor Who’ box set by Big Finish to feature Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. It looked to be exciting, especially with what was shown on the box set’s front cover. 🙂
The biggest selling point of these Ninth Doctor audio adventures by Big Finish is of course Christopher Eccleston, as he gives 100% of his performance as the Ninth Doctor from the TV series. He’s clearly enthusiastic when he plays the Doctor and I’ve found these audios enjoyable to listen to.
I’m pleased that the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ with Chris Eccleston have turned out well for him as well as for ‘Doctor Who’ fans. It’s great that Chris gets to play the Doctor on audio after doing one season in the TV series, and it’s very fantastic to explore more of his Doctor in the audio realm.
With this particular ‘Doctor Who’ anthology featuring Chris Eccleston’s Doctor, you could argue that there are two stories in it as opposed to three. There’s ‘Fond Farewell’ by David K Barnes and there are the two episodes ‘Way of the Burryman’ and ‘The Forth Generation’, which are both by Roy Gill.
‘Old Friends’ is directed by Helen Goldwyn, who previously directed ‘Respond to All Girls’. She comes across as a very competent director as well as an actress in Big Finish. I like how she handles these Big Finish audios as a director, and not just with ‘Doctor Who’, but also in ‘Star Cops’ and ‘Timeslip’.
As well as Chris Eccleston’s Doctor appearing in ‘Old Friends’, there’s also Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sam Bishop, whom you might have heard in the new ‘U.N.I.T.’ series of Big Finish audios as well as ‘Lady Christina’. The Cyberman also make an appearance in this exciting audio anthology. 🙂
Before ‘Old Friends’ was released, there was a dummy cover to show just the Ninth Doctor, the Brigadier and Sam Bishop. The Cybermen’s appearance was kept a secret until the anthology’s release. I still would’ve enjoyed ‘Old Friends’ anyway without the nice surprise of the Cybermen in it.
As well as the three episodes on the first three discs of ‘Old Friends’, there’s a fourth behind-the-scenes disc looking into the making of the episodes. I wondered how everything would connect with each other, as the Ninth Doctor reunites with the Brigadier and confronts the Cybermen in this volume. 🙂
1. ‘FOND FAREWELL’
First things first, let’s talk about ‘Fond Farewell’ by David K Barnes. David K Barnes is a writer I’ve come across before, since he’s written ‘The Dalek Occupation of Winter’ and ‘Daughter of the Gods’.
I like those adventures, especially ‘Daughter of the Gods’, which features the meeting of the First and Second Doctors as well as Steven, Katarina, Jamie and Zoe. Both stories had Daleks in them too.
When it came to checking out ‘Fond Farewell’ in ‘Old Friends’, I wondered if this ‘Doctor Who’ audio story would meet my expectations or if it would be disappointing. Thankfully, it isn’t disappointing. 🙂
‘Fond Farewell’ happens to be a compelling audio episode to listen to, especially when the Ninth Doctor and his one-off companion have to solve a mystery regarding the funeral of a dear old friend.
The story takes place at an intergalactic funeral parlour called Fond Farewell. Apparently, it’s a place where the deceased can attend their own funeral, as they’re ‘resurrected’ for a short period of time.
In the story, the Doctor has been invited to attend the funeral of Professor Flynn Beckett, a celebrated naturalist whom the Doctor had helped out on an expedition from quite a long while ago.
The Doctor meets up with Sasha Yan, Beckett’s assistant, who was also on the expedition. But upon arrival at Fond Farewell, both the Doctor and Sasha discover that Beckett isn’t quite the man he was.
For one thing, Beckett doesn’t remember the Doctor and Sasha. Despite the Doctor and Sasha insisting that Beckett knows them, he claims ignorance and his wife tells them both to go away and leave. 😐
I wondered where this story was going to go and how Beckett couldn’t remember who the Doctor and Sasha were. It becomes very disturbing once you discover Beckett’s memories have been edited.
Yeah, upon resurrection, Beckett’s memories have been edited deliberately and it’s all because his wife Idara requested it. It was really fascinating to uncover how and why Idara was behind all of this.
Idara is bitter and upset that Beckett didn’t love her so much upon his death and she wanted certain memories of his edited out for his resurrection at his funeral. Of course, there are big consequences.
The remaining memories of Beckett latch onto the A.I.s of the robot attendants at the funeral parlour, led by Thomas, who keep saying “I’m still here!”. They give clues as to what’s going on here.
In terms of the guest cast, there’s James Doherty as Professor Flynn Beckett as well as ‘other Flynn’. It was interesting to hear two different versions of the same character being played out in the story. 🙂
Sienna Guillory guest stars as Idara Beckett, Flynn’s wife in the episode. It’s interesting how the episode uncovered Idara’s role in the chaos that happened and what her motives were for doing it. 🙂
Charlie Hamblett voices Thomas and the robot attendants in the episode. I like the robots’ role in the episode, especially when you unravel the puzzle concerning why they keep on saying “I’m still here!”
Juliet Stevenson guest stars as Winifred Whitby, the owner of Fond Farewell. Whitby is proud of her funeral parlour and what it represents, but she isn’t responsible for the consequences of her actions.
Emily Taaffe guest stars as Sasha Yan in the episode. Sasha is easily the one-off companion in this ‘Doctor Who’ episode. She would’ve made a great companion, working well with the Ninth Doctor. 🙂
The episode concludes with the Doctor managing to persuade Idara to give back the memories Flynn Beckett lost when they were edited out. Idara is still bitter, even after doing what she did was wrong.
There’s also a hint that Sasha and Beckett were lovers behind Idara’s back. Sasha denies this of course, but I wonder if Beckett saw it at his end. It would explain why Idara seems to be pretty bitter.
As the episode concludes, the Doctor intends to visit another ‘old friend’ of his and notes that a lot has happened since he last saw him. I’m intrigued as to how the Ninth Doctor will go on to meet the Brigadier.
‘Fond Farewell’ is a good solid episode by David K Barnes, featuring a compelling character drama story throughout. I’m eager to check out the next two instalments with the Brigadier and the Cybermen.
‘Fond Farewell’ rating – 8/10
2. ‘WAY OF THE BURRYMAN’
The second episode of ‘Old Friends’ is ‘Way of the Burryman’ by Roy Gill. It’s arguably the first of a two-part story featured in this ‘Ninth Doctor Adventures’ volume, as it contains exciting elements. 🙂
I’ve come across Roy Gill before in ‘Doctor Who’, as he wrote ‘Cycle of Destruction’ in ‘Dalek Universe’. Here, he writes a story about the Ninth Doctor, the Brigadier, Sam Bishop and the Cybermen.
And yes, the Ninth Doctor gets to reunite with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Jon Culshaw. I’ve come across Jon Culshaw’s version of the Brigadier briefly in an episode of ‘The Legacy of Time’.
And I know he’s voiced the character in a number of ‘Third Doctor Adventures’ by Big Finish. I must admit, it took a while for me to get into Jon Culshaw’s Brigadier, as it isn’t exactly Nicholas Courtney.
But Jon was able to get the mannerisms and the tone of the Brigadier’s character, and I could easily visualise him being played by Nick Courtney in the episode. It was a pleasant and fascinating experience.
This is of course an older Brigadier around the time he helped Sarah Jane Smith out in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ story ‘Enemy of the Bane’. The ‘Way of the Burryman’ cover was also a give-away. 😀
It was nice to hear the scenes between the Ninth Doctor and the Brigadier when they interacted with each other. They meet up sort-of halfway through the episode, which I’m pleased it happened.
The Cybermen appear mostly towards the end of ‘Way of the Burryman’ as the big surprise. Having the Doctor and the Brigadier meet each other towards the episode’s end would’ve been unfulfilling.
It’s interesting of the Brigadier to enquire about why the Doctor came to visit him in Scotland in the early or mid-2000s. The Doctor is reluctant at first before sharing what happened in ‘Fond Farewell’.
It’s also intriguing how the Brigadier noticed the Doctor had been fighting in a war, but the Doctor is reluctant to talk about it. This is of course the Ninth Doctor after he’d been fighting in the Time War.
An observation is made about the Ninth Doctor putting on a happy, go-lucky persona that hides the grief-stricken, battled-hardened person he’s been. It’s quite a perfect summary of the Ninth Doctor.
I like that ‘Way of the Burryman’ is set in Scotland, echoing the Brigadier’s Scottish roots as established in ‘Terror of the Zygons’. Ironic, as Nick Courtney wasn’t really a Scottish person himself.
The titular Burryman is the name given to the central figure in an annual ceremony or a ritual called the Burryman’s Parade. This certain event takes place in the South Queensferry area of Edinburgh. 🙂
It’s on the south bank of the Firth of Forth in Scotland on the second Friday of August. The Burryman is covered from head to ankles in green burrs. This is something that I didn’t know about in Scotland.
The writer Roy Gill is Scottish himself, having been born in Edinburgh, so he would know about the Burryman’s Parade from presumably his childhood and adulthood as well as doing his research here.
It was interesting to hear Warren Brown as Sam Bishop in the episode. Sam Bishop is a character I’ve come across before in the ‘Lady Christina’ series. I assume this is taking place before he joins U.N.I.T.
In this episode, Sam is at a crossroads with his girlfriend Elinor Lawless as Fiona McCall. He also wants to travel the world and is soon caught up in the adventure with the Ninth Doctor and the Brig.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger where the Doctor, the Brigadier, Sam and Fiona meet a Cyber-Scout called Kreel. Kreel sounds as if he’s in distress, especially when he’s groaning a lot in the story.
I liked the reference made to the ‘Monsters in Metropolis’ episode in ‘Lost Warriors’. The Ninth Doctor shares about meeting the Cyberman in that story, as he was a member of Kreel’s scout party.
‘Way of the Burryman’ rating – 8/10
3. ‘THE FORTH GENERATION’
‘The Forth Generation’ is the follow-up to ‘Way of the Burryman’ by Roy Gill. It concludes things on a satisfactory note and it makes the reunion of the Ninth Doctor and the Brigadier really worthwhile. 🙂
The confrontation between the Ninth Doctor, the Brigadier and Sam Bishop against the Cybermen is also pretty worthwhile, especially when the Cybermen have more time spent in this certain episode.
Whilst Kreel is a Mondasian Cybermen, the Forth Generation are of a different design. They also have voices that sound more akin to new series Cybermen like in ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/’The Age of Steel’.
In fact, I wonder if the Forth Generation Cybermen look like the one that appeared in the ‘Monsters in Metropolis’ episode in ‘Lost Warriors’. There’s a history of the Cybermen being built from thereon.
This is especially from the construction of the Forth Bridge over the River Forth. The Cybermen were originally workers who died constructing the bridge over the River Forth. This is fascinating to learn!
There’s even a prologue scene where Kreel takes over the workplace to make his Cybermen at the Forth Bridge over the River Forth. You have to be alert for those kinds of details involving backstory.
Unfortunately for Kreel, the Forth Generation go against him and kill him in the episode. It goes to show, doesn’t it? Like Daleks, the Cybermen cannot be trusted as far as preserving life is concerned.
In the present day, the Doctor, the Brigadier, Sam and Fiona try to find a way to thwart the efforts of the Forth Generation. Sadly, it comes with a price, as Fiona is soon converted into a Cyber-Planner. 😦
Yeah! Poor Fiona! And poor Sam, as he loses his girlfriend because of the Cybermen. It was disturbing and eerie to hear Fiona with a Cyber voice when she interacted with the Doctor and Sam.
Thankfully, Fiona doesn’t go all the way and become totally cold and heartless once she’s a Cyber-Planner. She actually helps the Doctor and company to thwart the efforts of the Forth Generation. 🙂
It’s still sad though to hear the farewell scene between Sam and Fiona by the story’s conclusion. Sam has been promoted to a new job in U.N.I.T. whilst Fiona has to remain behind to protect Scotland.
It’s actually interesting to hear how Sam got into working for U.N.I.T. in this story, since it was from the tragedy of losing his girlfriend to the Cybermen. The Brigadier also recommended Sam Bishop. 🙂
The Brigadier has been an enjoyable character in the two episodes of ‘Old Friends’ that he’s in. In ‘Way of the Burryman’, the Doctor remarked on how Brigadier hasn’t changed, despite the silver hair.
Here in ‘The Forth Generation’, it’s made clear the Brigadier has changed, since he’s wiser and not so gun-ho compared to when he was younger and active in U.N.I.T.’s glory days from the 1970s/1980s.
It was nice of the Doctor to make that observation and how he tells the Brigadier that he was always right. It shows how the deep the Doctor and the Brigadier’s friendship has become over the years. 🙂
The Brigadier gets the support of other U.N.I.T. members working in Scotland. This includes Amanda Drew as Commander Jane Wardie. Sadly, some U.N.I.T. members die in the cause to save the world.
Martin Quinn also appears as Cameron Lawther and there’s Alexander Cobb as a foreman, a U.N.I.T. courier and Sergeant Lowe. And there’s Nicholas Briggs who provides the voices of the Cybermen. 🙂
In the episode, the Doctor says to not believe all of the Cybermen’s origins, including the bits about Marinus and Planet 14. This is of course contradicted by the Twelfth Doctor during ‘The Doctor Falls’.
I liked it when references were made to ‘The Invasion’, especially when the Brigadier mentioned the Cybermen walking up the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. That is one of my favourite Cybermen stories.
‘The Forth Generation’ concludes with the Doctor and the Brigadier saying goodbye to each other. I liked the farewell between them, and it’s well-performed between Chris Eccleston and Jon Culshaw.
I enjoyed the two episodes featuring the Cybermen, the Brigadier and Sam Bishop in ‘Old Friends’. Things are wrapped up nicely, and it’s very good the Doctor gets to reunite with an old friend in this.
‘The Forth Generation’ rating – 8/10
BONUS DISC – BEHIND-THE-SCENES
Disc 4 of ‘Old Friends’ is a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary, looking into the three episodes of the fourth ‘Ninth Doctor Adventures’ box set by Big Finish. It was lovely to hear from the cast and crew on how they found the making of each of the three episodes featured in ‘Old Soldiers’.
We have an introduction by script-editor Matt Fitton and we also have Christopher Eccleston interviewed. It’s nice to hear how enthused Chris Eccleston is about doing these ‘Doctor Who’ audios by Big Finish and it’s fantastic how he is able to recreate his era on audio with such love and passion.
There’s then a look into ‘Fond Farewell’, featuring interviews with writer David K Barnes and actors James Doherty, Sienna Guillory, Charlie Hamblett and Emily Taffe. I’m surprised Juliet Stevenson wasn’t interviewed. Mind you, ‘Fond Farewell’ doesn’t get covered that much in the documentary. 😐
I like how David K Barnes shares his enjoyment of the Ninth Doctor era and how pleased he is to be writing for Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor on audio. It was also interesting to hear David K Barnes’ personal standpoint in writing ‘Fond Farewell’, especially in basing it on funeral parlours and such. 🙂
We then have a look into ‘Way of the Burryman’ and ‘The Forth Generation’. The director Helen Goldwyn is interviewed as well as the writer Roy Gill. Jon Culshaw is also interviewed. I like how he often shifts from his normal voice to doing the Brigadier and doing the Ninth Doctor in his interview.
I also like how Jon Culshaw makes a reference to Nicholas Courtney and saying that at the time of recording ‘Old Friends’ in 2021, it would have been 10 years since Nick Courtney passed away in 2011. Jon Culshaw demonstrates how much effort he’s put into recreating Nick Courtney’s Brigadier.
There are also interviews with Warren Brown and Elinor Lawless. It’s interesting how the production team talked about Sam Bishop’s origin story in ‘Doctor Who’. There are also interviews with Martin Quinn, Amanda Drew and Alexander Cobb. Nicholas Briggs is also interviewed in the documentary. 🙂
The documentary concludes with some final thoughts on ‘Old Friends’ as well as what is arguably Season 1 of ‘The Ninth Doctor Adventures’ by Big Finish. These are contributions from people like Christopher Eccleston, Jon Culshaw, Helen Goldwyn, Nicholas Briggs, Matt Fitton and plenty more. 🙂
‘Old Friends’ has been a great ‘Doctor Who’ audio anthology to listen to with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. It’s made extra-special with the Ninth Doctor meeting the Brigadier (played by Jon Culshaw) as well as Warren Brown as Sam Bishop and of course the Cybermen, voiced by Nick Briggs.
Having listened to Season 1 of ‘The Ninth Doctor Adventures’ by Big Finish, I’m looking forward to hearing more audio stories featuring Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. I hope some audios will be made featuring Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor along with Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler sometime in the future. 🙂
‘Old Friends’ rating – 8/10
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