It’s all out 80s over at Big Finish with the release of Doctor Who: In the Night. The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) audio adventures have been a high of the past few years, with the Forty sets in particular being loads of fun. Big Finish has really knocked the nostalgic element out of the park, utilising the iconic “found family” team of Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) to great effect. They’re one of those TARDIS teams that’s always fun to spend time with, so seeing them on a cover together is an easy draw for me.
This set sees them exploring some history for both the companions and the Doctor themself! But at the end of the day, is it worth meeting your heroes? And when things go wrong, will Team TARDIS be able to course-correct and save history? Let’s find out in this review of the latest Fifth Doctor audio adventure!
Pursuit of the Nightjar
The first story in this set is the main one, a four-part epic from the prolific Tim Foley. It sees the TARDIS land on the titular Nightjar, a ship delivering medical supplies during wartime. The catch is, that the Doctor is familiar with the ship’s fate, and not everything goes according to plan. It’s one of those premises pulled right out of the classic series, suited perfectly to the Fifth Doctor’s sense of adventure.
Everything from the sound effects, the ship, the companion dynamic, and even the restrained guest cast feels so authentic to the 80s era of the series. After the multi-timeline shenanigans of the last Sixth Doctor set, it was nice to have something a little quieter to listen to. The tone and narration pleasantly surprised me, being soothing and heartfelt. It’s a story I didn’t see tugging at the heartstrings as much as it did, relishing in the dynamic between Nyssa and Tegan.
There are some truly great performances in the guest cast. It’s got a small guest cast, but everyone’s at the top of their game. The main draws are longtime Big Finish guest actors Paul Thornley as Captain Goben and Fenella Woolgar as Captain Eslo. Both of them are absolutely fabulous, and they play off each other really well. The Pursuit of the Nightjar is almost disorienting in how good it is, a real love letter to the 80s era of the show. It’s the sort of story I could praise all day and listen to repeatedly.
The second and final story of Doctor Who: In the Night is Resistor by Sarah Grochala. It’s a lot shorter than Nightjar and feels much more supplementary than the last one. Instead of the Doctor landing in his own legends, this one is much closer to home. In the classic Doctor Who style, the Doctor tries to take his companions somewhere but takes them somewhere totally different. This time, we’re in a club in Warsaw in 1982—a far cry from a spaceship, but an interesting setting nonetheless.
This isn’t the first time the Fifth Doctor has meddled in the history of bands, just look at Fanfare for the Common Men. However, there’s so much more to this one. I can’t shake the thought that perhaps it should have been longer than two parts. The Secret Police stuff mentioned in the synopsis goes somewhere genuinely interesting, though I might be a little biased. When this story’s a pseudo-historical it’s great, we need more like this, and it’s something I’ve noticed Grochala’s done in the past with The False Dimitry.
There’s a lot going on, but Davison’s 2-parters on TV were crowded too. Although the alien stuff was nice, playing with perception, it wasn’t my favourite aspect of the episode. As an added “extra” to Nightjar, this is brilliant, the hour flies by. However, it’s definitely not strong enough to headline its own boxset. That being said, the cast are amazing as always, with Davison in particular turning in a consistently charing performance.
Although the set titles for the Fifth Doctor Adventures (Conflicts of Interest, In the Night) this year have been a little generic, they’ve contained some of the best episodes. The Pursuit of the Nightjar, in particular, is an all-time classic episode with potential for the Big Finish story of the year. Overall, the set was a lot more heartfelt than I expected, with less emphasis on action than the cover might suggest. Beyond obvious comments about story length, it felt like episodes out of Season 20! I really appreciated all the touches to era authenticity on display here.
Unfortunately, that’s it for the Fifth Doctor at Big Finish this year unless there’s a secret unannounced cameo in something else. We won’t hear from Davison again until April next year, and I know I’m waiting for some amazing content! This and Conflicts of Interest were great fun, and I adored this box set. I can’t wait to see what Davison has in store for us next. Perhaps we’ll explore some of his other companions next year, like Turlough (Mark Strickson) or Peri (Nicola Bryant)? Only time will tell!
You can pick up your own copy of Doctor Who: In the Night exclusively from Big Finish Productions at the link here. It’s available as a Collector’s Edition CD boxset for £19.99, or as a download only for £16.99. For more reviews, news, lore, and geeking out about all things Doctor Who, be sure to follow Tardis Central!
Doctor Who will air in November 2023 with three special episodes as the show’s 60th Anniversary headliner event. David Tennant returns as the 14th Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa’s first episode as the Fifteenth Doctor will air over the festive period, while his series 14 will debut in 2024 with Millie Gibson. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new seasons of Doctor Who outside of the UK and Ireland.