Doctor Who: The End of the Beginning Review

So here we are, after over 20 years of monthly releases, the final Main Range Doctor Who story. While each Doctor previously in this range will be getting their own box set releases going forward, it still feels like quite the “end of an era”. So what was the release to end it all like? Funnily enough very similar to the one that started it all, but that’s not really a good thing…

Synopsis:

The Universe is in a state of crisis, facing destruction from the results of a strange spatio-temporal event. And the Doctor is involved in three different incarnations – each caught up in a deadly adventure, scattered across time and space.

The whole of creation is threatened – and someone is hunting the Doctor. The three incarnations of the Doctor must join together to confront their implacable pursuer – but in doing so will they unleash a still greater threat?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The highlight of the story has to be Episode 3, which focuses on The Doctor and Charley, one of the standout pairings from the Main Range’s history. They arrive in 1999 London, where The Doctor is meeting up with an old friend named Highgate (Tim Faulkner), leaving Charley to wonder towards an art exhibition. Highgate, as it turns out, is a vampire who The Doctor made to “see the error of his ways” and integrate himself into regular society, though he did become an artist and started to sell new works long after he was dead much to The Doctor’s dismay, which made me laugh. Anyway, Highgate reveals a new vampire is in London and he owns an art gallery, so naturally The Doctor realisies that’s where he’s sent his companion. Charley is nearly killed by this other vampire named Dwayne Pherber (Kieran Bew) but is saved, and then we get some fun run-about for a while before The Doctor defeats Pherber and his undead army with a converted sunbed. Highgate then wishes to finally die so stays up and watches the sunrise with his old friend… it was a really nice scene and in general the episode was really fun. Paul McGann did his best “young, happy and energetic Doctor” to get across the earlier phase of his incarnation’s life, and it was a joy to hear.

The over-arching plot is that a man named Vakrass (Kevin McNally), who is apparently the “last of the Death Lords”, is searching for The Doctor and three parts to a Gallifreyan crystal belonging to the Doctor’s old teacher Gostak (David Schofield) that will point the way to a fabled lost moon of Gallifrey. He picks up three Doctors that have each found a part of the crystal, namely the Fifth (with Turlough), Sixth (with Constance) and Eighth (with Charley) and reveals his evil plan: that he doesn’t have one, he actually loves everyone and wants to do good things, his plan of grabbing The Doctors was so they could travel to Gallifrey’s lost moon and stop an “unravelling” that could wipe out all organic life in the universe. This is what Part 4 is all about, as the three Doctors arrive and find their old mentor had gone insane and wishes to use a weapon to restore the Time Lords to their former glory by rewinding time, undoing countless lives in the process. There are a few fun lines between The Doctors, or The Doctors and their old/future companions, but in general it all felt a little… flat. The Doctors stop the machine and have it destroy itself and the moon, then manage to escape thanks to the timely arrival of the Seventh Doctor. They all head off to places new with a near fourth wall breaking “and our adventures will continue” line or two. Varkass ending up being nice and some lines here and there were both fun, but in general it was just… alright.

The Bad:

A nice cover to end us on, which is something the Main Range has really been on form with since the template changed.

The opening episode, featuring the Fifth Doctor and Turlough in an adventure across the desert, was really… dull. Not offensively bad, just not very interesting. They become stuck between British coloniser John Quarrington (Richard Goulding) and local Ibrahim (Youssef Kerkour) and eventually find Gostack’s old TARDIS. It’s fine, but… yeah. Dull.

The same can sadly be said of the next episode featuring the Sixth Doctor and Constance. It’s set just after The Lovecraft Invasion, but Flip is written to be in a coma to explain her absence. This seems like a pointless idea until The Doctor enlists the help of Calypso Jonze (Robyn Holdaway), meaning it was presumably set here just so writer Robert Valentine can bring back his original character that I guess he assumed would be a bit hit, instead of just … generic and forgettable. The trio decide to take down a local evil regime led by a robot named “El Zeddo” (Glen McCready) and so do a bit of a run around some futuristic locations before The Doctor resets his programming. Again, nothing offensive, but nothing particularly interesting.

Throw in a final part that is also mostly not-very-interesting and it’s a pretty dull release overall, like a fair few Main Range stories were, but if you’re going to celebrate the whole 275 story lot than I’d prefer you reference the good bits…

The Continuity:

Not much, really, beyond the already mentioned Sixth Doctor part of the story taking place directly after “The Lovecraft Invasion”. The Fifth Doctor mentions something being familiar about Charley “something about a light…? No, it’s gone” which is a reference to earlier multi-Doctor story “The Light at the End”, then the Sixth also mentions something being familiar with her but not being able to place it, which is a reference to the Sixth Doctor / Charley stories that started with “The Condemned”.

The set up of three single stories leading to a team up in the fourth part is the same format as the original Big Finish Doctor Who / the first Main Range release “The Sirens of Time”. It was similarly dull with only one story being particularly good, so this is certainly a full-circle moment, though sadly in this case…

Overall Thoughts:

The End of the Beginning was much like the beginning of the Main Range itself: two dull single parts, a fun single part and then a kind of stale multi-Doctor part with a few little fun moments. It’s not the kind of full circle moment I was hoping for sadly, but hey-ho… It was nice hearing The Doctor and Charley again, wasn’t it?

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