This is the first ever Big Finish monthly release - The Sirens of Time, written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, and starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.
I have gone right back to the beginnings of Big Finish after reading a review by Mike from the TimeVault podcast on The Colour for Monsters is Green blog. I was curious to see what Big Finish was like when it first started in 1999. A lot of the people involved had been producing high quality audio dramas based in the Doctor Who universe so they already knew what they were doing when the BBC gave them a licence to produce official stories. And they certainly hit the ground running with this production.
As the cover picture suggests this is a multi doctor story with incarnations five, six and seven all facing an individual challenge before uniting in the final act to overcome the villain. The Doctors are flying solo without companions, Tegan and Turlough are mentioned but are conveniently locked in the Tardis and not heard from. Of the three actors Peter Davison and Colin Baker seem to drop straight back into their roles with ease. Only Sylvester McCoy seemed to me to be searching for his character in the opening episode. Certainly he has found it in all the other Big Finish stories I have listened to, so it did not take him long to pick it up again. The rest of the cast are all very good indeed and Mark Gatiss does a brilliant accent as the German U-boat captain that is so good I didn't realise it was him until I looked at the cast list.
I assumed that this early Big Finish might be lacking some of the production values that we have come to expect from them but it is all terrific. Right from the start they seem to have mastered the sound effects, music and general recording quality. I listened to this as a download from the Big Finish site and was it was great that all the individual chapters had the appropriate track names on them. I presume that data was not on the original CD pressings in 1999 so maybe they have gone back and added them since. Some of the recent CD releases have been a bit variable in track naming but that is just nerdy nit-picking on my part.
The script is great and I enjoyed the episodic nature of the story. Having read the TimeVault review I knew there was a twist coming but still had fun trying to guess what was going on. I know Mike had problems with one of the actor's performance in the first episode but it did not bother me so much. It reminded me of some of the terrible monster performances in the television show in a rather charming fashion. All in all I am tremendously impressed with the high standard set by Big Finish in this first release. It's going to get 3.5 out of 5 Tardis keys.
I'm not planning to work my way through the back catalogue like Mike is. I can't afford to for one reason. However, I am going to be listening to one or two older stories and reviewing them here in between the regular monthly releases.