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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Dark Universe


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 869 1 (CD),
978 1 78178 870 7 (download)
Release Date: 29 February 2020

The Eleven has a plan. A grand plan. An appalling plan. A plan that endangers all life in the cosmos. With Ace working for the enemy, the Doctor must rely on scheming Time Lord Cardinal Ollistra for help. The stage is set for an epic confrontation. Because the Doctor has a plan to stop the Eleven. A grand plan. An appalling plan. A plan that endangers all life in the cosmos. Whichever one of them wins, the citizens of the Dark Universe won’t want to lose…

In an interview at the end of this release, writer Guy Adams claims that he was partly inspired by those earth-shattering (and sometimes multiple Earths-shattering) crossover events that American comic books do from time to time, such as Thanos wiping out half the population of the Marvel universe, or the various crises that have affected DC’s infinite Earths. Adams also cites Doctor Who’s season finales from Russell T Davies’s time as showrunner, when year upon year he upped the ante with ever-greater levels of threat, destruction, heroic team-up and villainous alliance.

Indeed, the second half of this story, which reunites a present-day Ace (Sophie Aldred) with a ‘nearing the end of his seventh life’ Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and a handful of Time Lord survivors against a recurring baddie, has a lot in common with Series 3’s Last of the Time Lords. Having (re)introduced the Eleven, a Gallifreyan foe from the Eighth Doctor’s audio adventures, Dark Universe jumps forward six months to a time when the villain reigns supreme over a large part of the cosmos. The Doctor is a prisoner and plaything (though he isn’t aged into a Gollum-like state, thank goodness), his companion mounts a resistance, and the villain descends to new depths of insanity.

Given the levels of destruction that we hear about (no spoilers, but it’s huge), it seems certain that a push of the old reset button will be needed at the end of the tale in order to restore the Doctor Who universe to its proper form. There is an element of that, I’ll admit, though it’s not as bad as I’d feared.

Mark Bonnar gives a powerhouse performance as the Eleven, a Time Lord whose mind has retained the multiple personalities of his former selves, all of them jostling for attention, all but one of them criminally insane. Sylvester McCoy has fun with what becomes of the Doctor, and though the relationship between him and Ace is not as frosty as it first appears, things are far from cosy by the end.

If this story leaves you thirsty for more adventures with the older Ace, who is now a wealthy philanthropist in charge of A Charitable Earth (as established in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor), Aldred has written a novel, At Childhood’s End, in which Dorothy McShane crosses paths with the Thirteenth Doctor…


Richard McGinlay

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