So, 2013 is still the 50th Anniversary for Doctor Who, and I’ve persisted all year with my plan to only listen to/watch/read 1st Doctor stories in January, 2nd Doctor stories in February etc. I’ve been waiting all year for August, since Paul McGann is probably my favorite Doctor.
Now, he has (so far!) only appeared onscreen as The 8th Doctor once, in the 1996 TV Movie. I remember setting my VCR to record it that night, being very excited about it, and being quite disappointed by a lot of the elements. Watching it now, it’s definitely not great, but it has a certain charm, most of which is down to Paul McGann’s ebullient performance. The 8th Doctor continued in the comics, and in the novels (which I got into much later, through Jonathan Morris’ Anacrophobia, which is still one of my top Doctor Who stories in any medium), but starting in 2001, he began a series of audios for Big Finish Productions which have seen him play the part through some of the very best Who stories and most adventurous story arcs in the show’s history.
The series with India Fisher as Charlotte Pollard (from Storm Warning through to The Girl Who Never Was) is full of classics (The Chimes Of Midnight, Neverland, The Natural History Of Fear, Time Works, and Memory Lane all spring to mind). The four series of one-hour stories co-starring the fabulous Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller is probably my favorite thing Big Finish productions have done; even the stories that don’t work as well as the others are just supremely enjoyable thanks to the crackling chemistry between 8 and Lucie. I loved the three stories with Julie Cox as Mary Shelley, and Dark Eyes, the boxset from last year with Ruth Bradley as Molly O’Sullivan, was ambitious and dark and dense, if perhaps ultimately overreaching its grasp. There’s only a minority of duds in his whole tenure with Big Finish, and the writers always seem to feel emboldened by the idea that they are creating and defining The 8th Doctor’s era (and similarly with the late period 7th Doctor stories), rather than mimicking it or adding to it, as they do (quite successfully) with 4, 5 and 6.
Throughout all of them, McGann’s rich voice, powerful range, and playfully quirky delivery keep the proceedings cracking along, and make even the flimsiest of stories dramatic and engaging (I’m looking at you, The Next Life!).
So far this month, I’ve listened to Enemy Aliens, the latest installment of the Destiny Of The Doctors series (which was good up to a point), and I’ve started from the beginning with Charley’s stories to do a sort of “greatest hits” tour of those. I’ll also try to fit in an unread BBC Novel or two, time permitting, maybe one of the early ones with Sam (I have, but have never read, The Bodysnatchers or War Of The Daleks, which seem likely candidates!).
August is 8th Doctor month!