Doctor Who
Storm Warning

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 24 6
Available now


The TARDIS materialises in 1930 on board the doomed British airship, the R101. But before her fiery demise, the R101 is bound for a top-secret rendezvous, one that will not be recorded in the history books...

No disrespect intended to Big Finish's previous audio productions starring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, but this is what many fans have been waiting for! Although new performances by Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy are always extremely welcome, they must inevitably be set in the Doctor's past. With this, the first in a "season" of four stories starring the latest incarnation, we have the next best thing to a new series on TV.

With only the 1996 TV movie and a couple of audio book readings under his belt, McGann - and the writer, Alan Barnes - have relatively little source material on which to base this re-launch of the Eighth Doctor. Yet between them they have managed to grasp two of the character's most fundamental traits. Firstly, this Doctor is a passionate man, as evidenced here by the way in which his delivery switches from almost-whispers to bellowing pronouncements upon all matters that stir his soul. Secondly, this incarnation, even more than Davison's, has an unwavering capacity for self-sacrifice, which is demonstrated by his readiness to allow a hungry creature of the time vortex to drink his blood for nourishment. McGann's opening moments get slightly bogged down by a lengthy scene of the Doctor talking to himself. Although the script does acknowledge this shortcoming through the dialogue of its characters, and while it also echoes the final scene of the TV movie, it is fortunate that McGann does not have to wait long before he is joined by a new companion.

Playing companion Charlotte (Charley) Pollard is India Fisher. The feisty Charley is noticeably similar to Fisher's earlier and equally feisty Big Finish character Peril in Winter for the Adept, but then it was that Adept performance that led to her casting as the companion. Charley's introduction involves a wavering regional accent as she adopts an assumed identity - perhaps a sly dig at the unintentionally dodgy dialect of TV companion Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane) back in 1966?

The airship R101 provides as intriguing a setting as that other infamously tragic vessel, the Titanic. Both embodied the pride of a diminishing British Empire and symbolised a triumph of engineering over the forces of nature, and both met their respective ends on their maiden voyages. The historical background is established with style and wit via an authentic-sounding pastiche of a Pathé newsreel, while the major guest star, Gareth Thomas, is perfectly bluff and gruff as the minister for the air, Lord Tamworth, although his character's ultimate change of attitude is not entirely convincing.

Also incorporating an interesting application of the psychoanalytical triumvirate of ego, superego and id, this marks a promising beginning to the Eighth Doctor mini-series.

Richard McGinlay