The Light at the End

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The Doctor finds a red light flashing on the TARDIS console where previously there was no light. He finds it eight times, once in each of his first eight bodies. The light seems to be drawing him to a particular address in England, on 23rd November 1963.

Big Finish celebrate Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary with this two-hour special starring Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. The story features a beautiful new arrangement of the theme music that raises the neck hairs, and some great music which isn’t too far from Murray Gold’s brilliant I Am The Doctor.

On the ‘making-of’ documentary which accompanies the special edition, the producers admit that actor availability influenced the story in some ways, as one might expect with such a large cast. This is pleasingly reminiscent of the definitive multi-Doctor story, the twentieth anniversary’s The Five Doctors. Like Terrance Dicks in 1983, The Light at the End‘s writer Nick Briggs has come up with a structure that adapt to these working conditions, and both come up trumps. In both stories here’s just enough enjoyable Doctor-interaction to keep you wanting more, with the pleasure of the ultimate team-up cleverly delayed.

The Light at the End‘ has succeeded where its illustrious predecessor failed, in securing the services of Tom Baker. There’s a great line where the Fourth Doctor says he doesn’t like to think about regeneration, a nice nod to Baker’s reputation for not acknowledging that other actors have played the part. Teaming Tom Baker and Paul McGann’s Doctors is a delight, with great rapport between the two Liverpudlians.

Each Doctor is paired with a companion, and Big Finish have come up with a respectful and effective way to represent the first three Doctors too. Each Doctor is written authentically and given a vital part to the play. Early scenes of ghostly Doctors and companions appearing to each other in the TARDIS also have faint and ethereal voices. This means it isn’t the easiest story to listen to in the car, but that’s a minor quibble.

One of the things that struck me while enjoying this story is the need for the Doctor’s to explain his wildly differing appearances to his companions. Leela, Ace and Charley have no idea about the concept. I much prefer Doctor Who this way, with his friends only learning about this ability when the time comes for it to actually happen. During the Sixth Doctor era regeneration was mentioned in most of the stories, but it reached bizarre levels in the Tenth Doctor tenure. The nadir of this was reached, as was so much of the revived series, in The End of Time. In this story Wilf reveals that the Doctor has been casually explaining regeneration to the supporting cast during adventures! Far better to show the Doctor’s otherwoldliness through his actions, than have him explain his heritage all the time.

Geoffrey Beevers gets another chance to impress with his performance as the Master, channeling the silky charm of Delgado, while still suggesting the cadaverous, sickly state his body is in during this post-The Deadly Assassin period. After a more cartoon villain performance at the climax of the first series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures in The Trail of the White Worm and The Oseidon Adventure, there’s an act of pure evil in this story which re-establishes him as a remorseless and ruthless foe.

This is a terrific story with which to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary. I picked up my copy at the Dimensions convention in Newcastle on the week of release. I was intending to buy the standard edition, but upgraded when I saw the special edition packaging, which is great. The lavish booklet has some lovely portraits of the cast, and the amount of additional material on the extra three CD’s make it worth the price tag.

Order The Light at the End from Amazon:

The Light at the End (Doctor Who)

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