Recently, we saw the Eleventh Doctor deal with a particularly troublesome problem in A Christmas Carol. The adventure (the Doctor Who Christmas special for BBC One) was bold, brave, exciting and even managed to have the Doctor and his friends menaced by a large flying shark.
But whilst that adventure contained a lavish screen realisation to entertain all of those huddled around their television sets on Christmas day, Big Finish decided that their own Doctor Who Christmas special would be a visual treat for the ears.
Relative Dimensions finds the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller preparing to receive some very special guests aboard the good ship TARDIS in the shape of the Doctorâ€™s granddaughter Susan and her son Alex. The plan is a very straight forward one; Susan and Alex are to have Christmas dinner aboard the TARDIS with the Doctor and Lucie. But this is the Doctorâ€™s world so is it ever that simple? Unfortunately not, as the Doctor and his guests are soon up to their eyeballs in transdimensional problems.
It turns out that a fish that Susan appropriated many years ago during her travels with the Doctor has been lying dormant within her old room and now itâ€™s escaped and wanting to feed…
Marc Plattâ€™s play is simply brilliant. Thereâ€™s no other way to describe it. Here we have a Doctor at possibly his most vulnerable and emotional as he tries to reconnect with the family that he barely sees. The Doctorâ€™s rule has always been a simple one, never look back. Whatâ€™s done is done and when itâ€™s time to move on, do just that. But since revisiting Susan back in An Earthly Child, it seems that the eighth Doctor has become rather sentimental. This is a rare treat for us as McGannâ€™s performance is tenderly touching in this play.
He clearly longs for Susan, Alex and Lucie to join him on his adventures but struggles to find the right words to say. The Eighth Doctor was always noted as wearing his heart on his sleeve and being a vulnerable incarnation but for all those descriptions of his character, we never saw him bleed (so to speak) in any medium. He always kept quiet when he was at his lowest point. Here, we have a Doctor that is willing to push his poker face to one side and try to embrace emotions that heâ€™s not used to displaying.
While the story unfolds, weâ€™re shown more of the Eighth Doctorâ€™s TARDIS than ever before. Certainly more than the TV movie and possibly more detail than 2003â€™s Zagreus went into. Basements we never knew existed (although it wasnâ€™t a stretch to imagine they were there) are brought to life by audio brilliance. Old rooms of former companions are thrown back and forth as the Doctor shows how much emotional baggage he really carries.
The big fish thatâ€™s chasing the TARDIS dwellers down is only a means to an end. The most important thing within this story is the four lead actors, who take us on an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. By the end of this play, you really feel like youâ€™ve been locked up in the TARDIS with them, going through all their experiences.
Lavish, tender, stylish, exciting, sad, funny and bittersweet, this really is a Christmas special that stands out as a real treat and thatâ€™s comparing it to its television counterparts as well. If you want a Doctor Who story that will tick all the boxes for you, this is it. Buy it now, sit back and relax and spend an hour in the TARIDS with a unique look at the Doctorâ€™s softer side, you wonâ€™t be disappointed.
Relative Dimensions is available on CD and MP3 now from www.bigfinish.com.