‘Dark Universe’ (Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Eleven with the Seventh Doctor and Ace

It’s time to talk about ‘Dark Universe’!

No, not that one! I’m sure many people would like to steer clear of that and the 2017 ‘Mummy’ film (though I’ve not seen it, even though I’ve heard it’s bad 😀 ). No, no! It’s time to talk about the Big Finish ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventure ‘Dark Universe’, starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. 🙂

I must admit, I haven’t heard every Big Finish audio of ‘Doctor Who’ and I haven’t read every book and comic featuring the Seventh Doctor. The Seventh Doctor era is a really confusing era to take in chronologically. Heck, even as I update my Seventh Doctor’s timeline, I still find it really confusing. 😀

But it’s a very fascinating era! People in terms of the writers provide their own unique take on the Seventh Doctor, including me. 😀 Whether it’s the younger Seventh Doctor from Season 24 to Season 26 or the older Seventh Doctor from ‘The TV Movie’, everyone has their own ideas on him. 🙂

Maybe that’s why I find ‘Dark Universe’ to be a fascinating audio drama to feature Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor along with Sophie Aldred’s Ace. I don’t think it’s the best ‘Doctor Who’ story ever made to feature Sylvester’s Doctor, but it’s intriguing in terms of the subject matter that it attempts to tackle.

This is a four-part adventure by Guy Adams, who has written plenty of ‘Doctor Who’ stories over the years as well as episodes of ‘Star Cops’. 😀 ‘Dark Universe’ is meant to serve as a prequel to the ‘Doom Coalition’ series featuring Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. I’ve yet to hear the exciting series. 🙂

Mark Bonnar, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred in ‘Dark Universe’.

The story features the Seventh Doctor fighting against the Eleven, a renegade Time Lord with eleven personalities into one. Mark Bonnar plays the Eleven in this audio story as he did for the ‘Doom Coalition’ series. Hearing this tale with the Seventh Doctor, Ace and the Eleven has been fascinating.

In the story, the Eleven plans to unleash the forces of the Dark Universe, a parallel reality, into our own. He enlists the help of Ace, who’s now older by this stage, as well as a South American guide and hunter called Gabriel. The Doctor also plans to defeat the Eleven in his dastardly plans of terror.

It’s fascinating to hear this story featuring the Eleven as a renegade Time Lord. Sometimes it can be confusing when multiple personalities of the Eleven are speaking to himself all at once. It’s like the previous lives of the Eleven are compressed into one mind, which is bound to make him go bonkers.

I’ve heard another story featuring this renegade Time Lord but that was when he was the Nine, played by John Heffernan and that was in an episode of ‘The Legacy of Time’. The Eleven would later go on to be the Twelve, played by Julia McKenzie – but that’s for another time in ‘The Time War’ series.

Mark Bonnar has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before on TV in the two-parter ‘The Rebel Flesh’/’The Almost People’. Nowadays, he’s well-known for playing the Eleven in ‘Doctor Who’ through the Big Finish audios. He clearly delivers a crazy sometimes subtle; sometimes bonkers performance in this story. 🙂

Owen Aaronovitch, Mark Bonnar and Sophie Aldred in ‘Dark Universe’.

I’m not sure what would make the Eleven to want to open the gateway of the Dark Universe and unleash its Dark citizens upon our universe’s inhabitants to cause chaos and destruction. He clearly wants power and control of Gallifrey. He gets bored when he has that control and power too long. 😐

The Eleven also has the ability to transplant his other ten personalities into robot versions of him. So he get to hear what the personalities of One, Four and Nine sound like in robot forms, voiced by Mark Bonnar himself. The Eleven also destroys Daleks and Sontarans and reprograms the Cybermen.

Sylvester McCoy has been pretty enjoyable to listen to in this ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventure. There are occasions when he’s narrating the story to us, although I’m not sure if it’s at different times during the story when he narrates. Guy Adams does make intriguing use of the Seventh Doctor here.

The story presents the Seventh Doctor in a very manipulative manner, especially when he’s finding ways to tackle the Eleven. When the Eleven is in control of our universe, the Doctor ends up being his ‘fool’, which put me in mind of ‘King Lear’ when Sylvester played the Fool with Sir Ian McKellen. 🙂

The Seventh Doctor also can be manipulative for his own ends in terms of getting what he wants from Ace. This is especially demonstrated in the final scenes of the story when Ace lets out her anger on him for using her in his grand plan to defeat the Eleven, which does sound pretty complex indeed.

Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred in ‘Dark Universe’.

Sophie Aldred is equally very good as Ace in this adventure. Now this is interesting in the story as this is the older Ace after her adventures with the Doctor ended, since she’s running A Charitable Earth. So, I assume this story takes place after ‘At Childhood’s End’ and ‘The Promise’ Blu-ray trailer.

Mind you, I’ve noticed that are inconsistencies with that, especially when Ace returns home and finds the Doctor there, eating popcorn I believe. That’s a bit different in ‘The Promise’ trailer, but then again there is much more to discover in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe in order to find the answers.

It was intriguing to hear Ace working with the Eleven and Gabriel before they uncover the gateway to the Dark Universe in the story’s first half. It was also fascinating to hear Ace work with Ollistra and Rasmus in the story’s second half. I wish there were more scenes with Ace and the Doctor though. 😦

Speaking of Ollistra, Carolyn Pickles plays her in this ‘Doctor Who’ story. So, this is before Ollistra regenerated into Jacqueline Pearce for the Time War stories with the Eighth and War Doctors. It was amazing to hear Carolyn Pickles’ Ollistra in this tale and find out how she tackles the Eleven incident.

I wish we could hear more of Ollistra in the story’s first half and have more interaction with the Doctor. According to the CD’s synopsis, the Doctor must rely on scheming Time Lord Cardinal Ollistra for help. Yet, I’ve not heard many scenes to indicate that collaboration between the two Time Lords.

Mark Bonnar, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Lin Sagovsky and Glen McCready in ‘Dark Universe’.

I’m not sure if everything that happened with the Eleven being in control of our universe with destroying the Daleks and the Sontarans and reprogramming the Cyberman was in an alternative reality. Then again, it could’ve been since it was revealed the Eleven was inside the Matrix for a time.

The story’s guest cast also includes Damian Lynch (who I believe was in a Big Finish audio with Peter Davison) as Rasmus, Ollistra’s aide. There’s also Owen Aaronovitch as Gabriel, Lin Sagovsky as a Dark Citizen and Glen McCready as a Tribe Leader. I’m sure there’s more characters featured in this story.

I was a little put-off by Ace letting out her anger on the Doctor by the end and wondered what was going to happen next. Does Ace return to Earth to run A Charitable Earth after this? I’m sure she does. Maybe it’ll be get explored in a future Big Finish audio when we follow up with this adventure.

I enjoyed ‘Dark Universe’ with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred and had a good taste of Mark Bonnar as the Eleven. I don’t think this is a great ‘Doctor Who’ story as there’s a lot to take in. But it was fascinating to listen to and I’m certain with more listens, this will be a good yarn to look back on.

The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there’s a track of incidental music to enjoy. At the end of Disc 2, there is a trailer for ‘The Psychic Circus’ with Sylvester McCoy. There are also behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews with director Ken Bentley, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Mark Bonnar, Carolyn Pickles, writer Guy Adams, etc.

If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Dark Universe’ via a 6 or 12 CD/download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras for ‘Dark Universe’.

‘Dark Universe’ rating – 7/10

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2 thoughts on “‘Dark Universe’ (Audio)

  1. Timelord 007

    Wonderful review Tim, this is a very complex tale with a lot of story crammed in & actually could’ve worked better as a four disc set like Unit Dominion as i felt there was a arc with Ace that wasn’t fully explored, why is she so angry with the Doctor? as well as Ollistra being underused.i got the feeling there were more scenes which were cut for timing.

    A good intriguing audio drama but needed a longer run time to iron out the creases.

    7/10 perfect score Tim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you enjoyed my review on this story. There are lots of complexities to this tale. I’m surprised we didn’t have a full-on trilogy featuring an older Seventh Doctor and an older Ace that could’ve explored their relationship together. Yeah your four disc idea like ‘U.N.I.T.: Dominion’ could’ve worked better. Lots of things in this story weren’t explored like Ace’s character and there should’ve been more Ollistra like you said.

      Many thanks for your comments, Simon.

      Tim. 🙂



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