It seems very strange to have Doctor Who so limited in broadcast episodes for 2009. Since 2005 we have been so pampered that it’s sometimes hard to remember that we were without regular Doctor Who once before and that time it lasted for sixteen years. Sixteen years?! Wow. How did we fill the time?
Well for starters there were books and comics, but the one that got me hooked ever since my first was the Big Finish adventures. Since they kicked off in 1999 we got brand new monthly episodes of our beloved show. Then in 2000 they gave us brand new adventures with the then current Doctor, Paul McGann. It was, and still remains, a great joy to hear any of the four Doctors currently working with Big Finish, reprising the role, but somehow the presence of the Paul McGann Doctor made it even more special.
Well he may not hold the title of “Current Doctor” any longer, but once again he comes to our aid with eight brand new adventures to be released weekly starting this March, through Big Finish’s website as MP3 downloads. Sixteen half-hour episodes comprising eight full stories will fill the gap left by the New Series’ absence.
Episode One is Orbis part one. Picking up some six months after last seasons cliffhanger – er… depending on the cliffhanger you chose to go by anyway – as far as Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith) is concerned. Orbis finally puts us out of our misery and clears up what happened to both the Doctor and Lucie at the end of Vengeance of Morbius.
Orbis also sees the return of Katarina Olsson as the villainous opportunist, The Headhunter. Up to her usual no good tricks, The Headhunter is the tool that brings us into this weeks adventure. Clearly we will be seeing more of her this season and it helps to give this season a more New Series feel.
Ever since the start of the Paul McGann / Lucie Miller adventures, The Headhunter has been there. She is almost as mush a part of the show as the Doctor himself at this point. Her popping up in one adventure only to pay off in a later story is a tool that current TV showrunner Russell T. Davies employs every season himself.
With all these lovely links to this particular era of one of the Doctor’s lives, we also get treated to new places and new races. Orbis takes us to the planet of the same name where the inhabitants, a jellyfish-like race called the Keltons, are facing what seems to be a natural disaster. The conditions of the planet are changing and becoming unsuitable for them, which means they could be forced to leave their world and make way for a more suitable race to claim it as their own.
How does The Headhunter fit into all of this? And what about the Doctor – what part does he have to play? A few years older (continuity buffs get out your pie charts!) and a bit more forgetful than ever, he finds himself mixed up in events as usual, but what happened to him since the events of The Vengeance of Morbius.
And just who is Lucie Miller?
Writers Alan Barns and Nicholas Briggs leave us wonderfully balancing on the edge of our seats at the end of part one. Will we really have to wait a whole week for part two? Oh yes, this feels like proper Doctor Who.
"Gap Year?" Never!
Not while Big Finish is around.