Big Finish release number 16 from January 2001, Storm Warning. Written by Alan Barnes and directed by Gary Russell.
It is October 1930 and the Eighth Doctor finds himself on board the airship R101 where he meets the young adventuress Charley Pollard. There is a mysterious passenger in a locked cabin, a storm is coming, and the Doctor knows that the R101 has a terrible date with destiny.
This was the first time Paul McGann returned to the role of the Doctor since the 1996 TV movie, and he instantly slips straight back in to the part with no difficulty. Obviously McGann has the advantage over the other actors in that he had the shortest gap between his television appearance and his Big Finish audios. So his voice has changed the least, but McGann may be the most natural sounding of the actors and is completely convincing as the mysterious traveller in space and time. He is ably backed up by India Fisher in the first of her several appearances as his new companion Charley. There was another performance that stood out for me but for a while I could not place the voice until I realised that the actor playing Lord Tamworth was Gareth "Blake's 7" Thomas.
The story itself is a tricky one and I was perhaps spoiled a bit by having recently listened to Cryptobiosis which has a similar set up although it was written much later. In both adventures the Doctor is on a ship which is heading into a storm and cannot escape because his Tardis has been, inconveniently, lost over board. Both have mysterious passengers in locked rooms who require special equipment to keep them alive, and again the two stories involve the Doctor negotiating a settlement with some form of alien race. It may be a little hard on the writers but I would quite like a story which doesn't involve a meeting with a new set of aliens. There are plenty of existing creations in the Whoniverse that could be used. Likewise I am getting a little bored with writers creating new forms of radiation or particles for the Doctor to encounter but that is an argument for another time.
I also had a few problems with anachronistic language in this episode. In particular I am not sure that an Edwardian adventuress who was travelling to Singapore for an assignment with a young man would refer to it as "a date", but that is just minor quibbling on my part. At least the inevitable destruction of the R101 with the tragic loss of everyone on board provides an acceptable explanation for why the alien contact does not have lasting repercussions for the British empire. It was also nice to hear the Doctor quip about Mary Shelley knowing that she will later turn up briefly as a companion.
A slightly variable story but a great reintroduction of the Eighth Doctor, and a promising start for Charley. 3.5 out of 5 Vortisaurs. Now back to Ace and Hex and the problem of the two Tardises.