He was the Doctor longer than anyone else, he came up against Cybermen, Zygons, Morbius, the Celestial Toymaker, the Meddling Monk, the Giant Spiders, the Krynoids, and his own people. He lost more to the Daleks than you could possibly imagine a Doctor could lose. Companions fell in love with him from time to time. He reunited with his granddaughter Susan, AND President Romana of Gallifrey.
The Eighth Doctor, in other words, has been around. Between the books, the comics and especially the amazing body of audio plays from Big Finish, this Doctor has developed in so many interesting directions that his single TV appearance in “the TV movie” felt less and less like you’d even put it in the top ten of his best stories.
Delightfully, and in a wonderful surprise move, Steven Moffat decided to do something about that, and so the special minisode Night of the Doctor was posted to the internet on what also happened to be Paul McGann’s birthday. Watch it before reading on!
There are so many things to love about this. We get to see the older, grizzled Eighth Doctor! The work of Big Finish is validated! Charley Pollard and Lucie Miller are OFFICIALLY CANON (if, you know, you didn’t consider them that already, crazy people). There’s the regeneration sequence which leads intriguingly into the Hurt Doctor storyline of the upcoming Day of the Doctor – and while this means that John Hurt’s “non Doctor” is exactly what most fans predicted he was, this is in no way a disappointment, largely because of the beautiful nod to the past, executed so cleverly.
The darkness of the story hinted at here, of the midst of the Time War and the toll it has taken on the Doctor (who frankly had been through quite enough long before it started, thank you very much), is conveyed very effectively through McGann’s older, worn-around-the-edges performance.
Also OMG The Sisterhood of Karn!
Ahem. Funnily enough, in response to this most excellent development, Big Finish are offering some of their work at special prices, so New Who & Old Who fans alike can check out who Charley, C’Rizz, Lucie, Tamsin and Molly all are. So I thought I’d put my outrageously dedicated Big Finish obsession to some use by making recommendations for those of you who’ve never heard a Big Finish before, and are now wanting to get to know the Eighth Doctor a little better.
WHO IS CHARLEY POLLARD?
A feisty Edwardian adventuress who ran away from home in search of travel and excitement, and found the Doctor, played by the bubbly and joyous India Fisher (better known to Brits as the voice of Masterchef).
WHERE DO I START?
Storm Warning, Charley’s first story, in a 1930’s zeppelin about to crash, guest starring Gareth Thomas of Blake’s 7. The chemistry between Eight and Charley is adorable right from the start, and she soon puts a stop to him talking to himself.
Chimes of Midnight, a beautifully ghoulish, twisty-turny Rob Shearman creepfest which beautifully satirises Upstairs Downstairs (though can probably be listened to now as a pre-emptive Downton Abbey parody) and also shows Charley’s character off to great effect.
WHO IS C’RIZZ?
A traumatised chameleonic alien with slight socipathic tendencies. Played by Conrad Westmaas, his cynical tone counterbalances Charley’s pep and the Eighth Doctor’s flamboyant heroics to make a great TARDIS trio.
WHERE DO I START?
C’rizz’s first story, The Creed of the Kromon, is currently on special. But I’d much rather you got to know him in one of the really excellent later adventures, such as Other Lives set in the Great Exhibition of Crystal Palace, or the surreal steampunk wonder of Time Works by Steve Lyons. Sadly those two aren’t on special.
Lucie is the awesomest of awesomecakes. A sarcastic Blackpool secretary who calls the Eighth Doctor on his bullshit on a regular basis, mocks any hint of grandiosity, and still manages to be both heroic and empathetic, Lucie is the Donna of the audio adventures – only she’s from the North! Played by the spectacular Sheridan Smith, in adventures that were specifically designed to follow a more modern New Who format (40 min episodes) while also providing nostalgia callbacks to some of the best monsters and villains of the 1970’s, Lucie runs the gamut of companion experiences, with comedy, angst, epic space opera, and a whole pile of snark. Her friendship with the Eighth Doctor is truly special and she gets a zillion bonus points for not finding him remotely attractive. Oh and her stories are ALL on special right now.
WHERE DO I START?
You could just grab Blood of the Daleks and start from the beginning. As well as launching Lucie with a bang, this story features Hayley Atwell, AKA Peggy Carter from Captain America. Yes, really.
Other great Lucie stories to give you a taste of the character as well as the brilliance of the Eighth Doctor himself (which work completely as standalone stories) include:
Max Warp – Graeme Garden guest stars brilliantly in this great spaceships-and-murder-mystery comedy which is certainly not a futuristic parody of a certain incredibly popular TV show about cars. Also features Lucie’s memorable re-definition of the TARDIS as a shed.
The Zygon Who Fell To Earth – Steven Pacey (Tarrant from Blake’s 7) and Tim Brooke-Taylor guest star in this suburban re-invasion of the aliens everyone is going to be talking about when the upcoming anniversary episode screens. Romance, humour and a hint of tragedy, plus a domestic betrayal that will change things between the Doctor and Lucie forever.
WHO IS TAMSIN DREW?
Following Lucie Miller was a thankless task, and I’ll admit I never quite took to Tamsin, played by Niky Wardley, whose job is largely to show that not everyone is cut out to travel with the Doctor. Her story is epic, though, and not one you want to listen to all in the wrong order.
WHERE DO I START?
At the beginning, with the Eighth Doctor auditioning four potential companions, Apprentice-style in Situation Vacant. But if you plan to go any further with Tamsin after that one, I’d listen to the first three seasons of Lucie stories first. Trust me on this.
WHO IS MOLLY O’SULLIVAN?
Molly is a fast-talking Irish maidservant who joined the nursing Voluntary Aid service with her aristocratic mistress during World War I – and in the midst of all the bloodshed and grim reality, found a Doctor who needed serious cheering up.
WHERE DO I START?
So far Molly has only appeared in the three-story box set Dark Eyes, which was intended as a soft reboot for the Big Finish Eighth Doctor, and a jumping on point for new listeners. If you want an Eighth Doctor who is a lot closer to the man you can see in Night of the Doctor (as opposed to the more light-hearted version which is closer to the performance of the TV Movie) then this is the best place to find him. They even redressed him in leather, though sadly we missed out on a scene where he formally embraces his new look. Bonus villain guest star: Toby Jones, though not playing the Dream Lord this time around.
There are two new Dark Eyes series to come starting next year though, so if you like Molly you can expect a lot more of her.
And guess what, Dark Eyes is on special too!
WHAT ELSE AM I MISSING?
The Eighth Doctor is reunited with Susan and gets to know his grandson in An Earthly Child which looks at what the Earth looks like a generation after The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Alex Campbell is played by Jake McGann, son of Paul!
Remember that time that the Fourth Doctor and Romana were supposed to have that adventure with Professor Chronotis in Shada but the Time Scoop in The Five Doctors prevented it? The Eighth Doctor kidnaps President Romana to make sure that they have the adventure they missed out on back in the 1970’s.
Mary Shelley, Byron, and the Eighth Doctor as Frankenstein’s monster in Mary’s Story. At only half an hour & 99p, this is probably one of the best stories to try first as it requires minimal financial or time investment if audio plays aren’t usually your thing.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE 50th ANNIVERSARY?
Once you’ve watched Night of the Doctor a dozen more times, check out the multi-Doctor Big Finish 50th anniversary extravaganza The Light At The End, which teams Eight and Charley up with Leela and Four, not to mention Six, Seven, Eight and even One, Two and Three getting in on the action. Plus Geoffrey Beevers as The Master. Joyous Doctor Who indulgence on a plate!