To celebrate 20 years of making Doctor Who audios, Big Finish released a special, roughly six-hour story titled “The Legacy of Time”, and now I’ve finally found the time to finish it, I can say it was a fun collection of stories, but was definitely just that. There wasn’t much of an over-arching plot, which is fine, it’s just different to what I was expecting. Let’s take a closer look!
Time is collapsing. Incidents of chaos and devastation are appearing throughout the lives of one Time Lord and his many friends – all fallout from one terrible disaster. From Earth’s past and present to timeless alien worlds, from the cloisters of Gallifrey into the Vortex itself… The Doctor must save universal history – and he needs all the help he can get.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The standout story in the set has to be Episode 3, “The Sacrifice of Jo Grant”, by Guy Adams. It’s set in the Third Doctor era (obviously!) but is framed in the current day, well, roughly the current day, and sees an older Jo travel back to the UNIT era via a time disruption alongside Kate Stewart, leading to not only The Doctor to meet an older version of his then-current companion (and delight in the knowledge she ends up okay, so long as time continues on course) but it has Kate talk to her father over the radio in a rather sweet moment. Jo seemingly sacrifices herself to save the day, ending up floating in the void, but The Doctor cheats and spends many years working out the precise calculations to rescue her and then sends the letter with the measurements to current-day UNIT so they can save her. Overall, it was a really nice look back at the Third Doctor era through modern eyes, and I’m thrilled the 3DA format with Tim Trelor has taken off like it has so that incarnation of the Doctor can take part in big events like this.
The next story I have to give credit to is the opening story, “Lies in Ruins” by James Goss, which sees the long-awaited meeting between Bernice Summerfield and River Song, the two travelling archaeologists in The Doctor’s long, long life. Not only do they play off of each other really well, but they’re tied together even better, it being revealed that River was a student in one of Benny’s university classes, with Ms. Summerfield finding out she only joined her class because she had a history with The Doctor. Speaking of whom, this is set during the Time War and features a very-near-breaking-point version of Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. He’s with a companion nobody knows about and is acting oddly, like he’s oblivious to things and just wants to have fun. The tragic reveal is that the companion in question is an android, a facsimile of what The Doctor likes about travelling with people, she asks the right questions and has the right bright outlook on life, but she isn’t real. The Doctor has been driven to the point of pretending things are like they used to be while doing his best to ignore the fact the universe is collapsing around his ears.
It’s not hard to imagine this story being extremely close to the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration mini-story Night of the Doctor, which sees The Doctor try and save someone only for them to die rather than travel with him, finally breaking him mentally enough that he turns himself into a warrior rather than a Doctor and fight in the war. This all sounds rather bleak, and it is in places, but Benny and River make for a fun pairing and stops the story from becoming too downbeat. Oh and it was revealed the planet they were on was actually a ruined TARDIS, which was a fun twist.
The full cover, in all its multi-promo-shot glory.
Episode 5, “The Avenues of Possibility” by Jonathan Morris is a good enough little story, made better by the return of DI Patricia Menzies, a great sarcastic policewoman who appeared in a few Sixth Doctor stories in the late 2000s, particularly two with The Doctor and Charley, where this story is set. The basic plot is time tunnels/portals appearing in London, connecting it with an alternate Earth where the British Empire holds the world to rights, a timeline that can only exist if the fanatic government of the time successfully invade the 18th century, which a portal to has also appeared. So it becomes a fight between two timelines to see which one can force themselves to exist/continue to exist. It’s good fun, and has Charley reveal to The Doctor her muddled past with his future incarnation, only for the Doctor not to remember it, obviously! Credit to Anna Hope, who slipped into her role of Menzies easily, despite how long it’s been.
Finally in the Good I’ll talk about the finale, Episode 6 “Collision Course” by Guy Adams. It’s mostly a Fourth Doctor story, where two versions of The Doctor, one travelling with Leela, and another with Romana II, meeting their end on a planet of Gallifreyan legend, where the first ever TARDIS flight took place, and where the Sirens of Time (from the very first Big Finish release!) are trying to return by creating the mother of all timeline paradoxes: stopping the Time Lords from discovering time travel successfully. This leads to Benny arriving with Doctors 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 and helping Leela, Romana and the Fourth Doctor to pilot the first ever TARDIS to its successful landing in order to preserve history. It has some good bickering and elbow jabs by The Doctors at each other’s expense (I particularly liked hearing Doctors 3 and 4 interacting, something that hasn’t happened before!) and is generally a fun, if a bit anti-climactic, scene (no big showdown or fight, just a rough flight).
I’ll also talk about a really fun, and extremely fan-wanky scene (in the best possible sense) where just before take-off another TARDIS arrives that threatens to destabilize the whole thing, so Benny and Leela enter the ship to find the 10th Doctor travelling with his first two selves (played by David Bradley and Frazer Hines respectively) to come and help. Doctor 10 geeks out at seeing Benny and Leela and everyone has a bit of chat/bicker (loved the Tenth Doctor calling the First a “moody teenager”!) before The Doctors get the hint that there are enough versions of themselves to get the job done, and any more would cause trouble, so they leave (but not before the 2nd Doctor delights himself by ringing’s the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS bell, which made me smile ear-to-ear). It’s a really fun scene, and great hearing David Tennant interacting with older parts of the DW mythos.
I can’t say I enjoyed Episode 2, “The Split Infinitive” by John Dorney, which sees The Seventh Doctor and Ace once a-bloody-gain reunited with the Countermeasures team. As I wrote in my recentish review of the Titan Comics Seventh Doctor story “Operation Volcano”, I’ve never seen the appeal of them and find them extremely boring, so a story where we have not one but two sets of Gilmore and co. wasn’t really on my wishlist. Given I’ve never listened to any Countermeasures audios there were a few references and one character I had no idea about, and it generally came off as an advertisement for the spin-off series rather than a standalone Seventh Doctor story. Even the idea of two eras coming together was done better later in the set… The inclusion of time-displaced Rocketmen was a good laugh though, I’ll admit!
Episode 4, “Relative Time” by Matt Fitton, was okay. It was clearly written because Peter Davison’s daughter is playing a sort-of daughter of The Doctor and so why not have actual father and daughter interact as The Doctor and his daughter, but it was fine. It also features The Nine, which is good because I think The Eleven and his various past and future selves are one of the few properly good and memorable Big Finish original creations, so it was nice to see him/them represented on the set. Overall though, it was standard disaster film stuff but on a spaceship, with the obvious (and clearly necessary!) Doctor mind wipe ending. Not bad by any means, but it never excited me.
Oh and Nicholas Briggs using his regular voice to act as a UNIT soldier in Episode 3 was distracting as hell, luckily the story was great in every other way…
Well, there are a lot, really, but most were just one sentence references… The Eighth Doctor is clearly shortly before his regeneration in “The Night of the Doctor”. River makes cheeky references (as she tends to do!) to a bunch of her adventures with The Doctor, so I won’t bother writing them all out…
The end result of Episode 2 is a “Temporal Shockwave” that the Seventh Doctor remarks would explain the contradiction of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart being retired in the 70s and worked in the 80s at the same time, a continuity error created by the Fifth Doctor story “Mawdryn Undead”. The Rocket Men first appeared in First Doctor Companion Chronicle “The Rocket Men”, and have reappeared in a second 1st Doctor CC and a Fourth Doctor adventure or two. Gillmore and the team later known as Countermeasures first appeared in Seventh Doctor TV story “Remembrance of the Daleks” and later appeared on audio a bunch of times, and in the comic story “Operation Volcano”.
Not much to say on Episode 3 beyond a reference to Jo’s first appearance in the series.
Episode 4 sees the return of Vortisaurs, a dinosaur-like creature that exists in the Time Vortex itself and was first introduced in the first Eighth Doctor audio “Storm Warning”. Jenny herself first appeared in the Tenth Doctor episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”.
Episode 5 really only has references to past Menzies-Sixth Doctor adventures, and a whole bunch of Charley Pollard Eighth Doctor adventures.
Episode 6 on the other hand doesn’t really have direct references, though plenty of quick-fire callbacks during all the in-fighting. I’ll mention the over-arching plot having the Sirens of Time in it, the Sirens first appearing in 5th-6th-7th Doctor multi-Doctor story and Big Finish’s first ever audio story “The Sirens of Time”, appropriately.
The Legacy of Time was quite the epic, although I really wanted to listen to it quickly, sadly work and moving led to it being a far more drawn out experience, but it turned out the stories were, for the most part, pretty standalone so it worked out well. A couple of blips (and one story I just didn’t click with at all) means I can’t give this a full-on 5, but it’s a high 4, so long as you go into it knowing it’s a continuity-fest with a celebratory multi-Doctor ending and therefore not a tightly written, deep story…