The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary celebrations continue in Doctor Who – Once and Future: Time Lord Immemorial. Where we last left off, Missy (Michelle Gomez) pointed the Doctor toward the mysterious Union. But in usual Once & Future fashion, the story soon launches in a totally different direction. Now degenerating into the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), the TARDIS gets sidetracked as universes literally collide.
It was teased a long time ago, but this story sees the final performance of the Unbound Doctor (David Warner) following Warner’s death last July. He’d played the role in many boxsets alongside Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) and now gets to interact with the main Doctors. But does he get a nice sendoff? And what horrors await in the fabled halls of the Time Lord Immemorial? Read on and find out in this spoiler-free review of the latest chapter of the Once & Future saga.
Two of the Same
Christopher Eccleston has long since refused to do a multi-doctor story. Having him involved in the Once & Future series at all is something that we should all be immensely grateful for. However, putting him up alongside the legendary David Warner was a stroke of genius. The Ninth Doctor gets to meet a Doctor from an alternate universe! Seriously, this alone could scarcely get much more special. Their dynamic doesn’t disappoint either, with the two playing off one another almost easily.
Warner’s appearance is obviously a bittersweet one. I only wish it was under better circumstances, but it’s nice to hear from him one last time. While I’m sure it wasn’t the final audio they had planned, where they send him off feels fitting. Although it’s pretty much only the production circumstances, the scene brought a little tear to my eye. As one of my favourite Doctors, it was nice to say goodbye and spend more time with David Warner.
Eccleston’s Eccleston. I’ve expressed in the past just how fabulous I find his interpretation of the Doctor. He’s charming, energetic, and has a great chemistry with Warner. Seeing him interact with the wider Whoniverse is great, and it’s something I’d really like to see more of in future Ninth Doctor Adventures sets. For a contribution to the 60th Anniversary, the story that rapidly expands the arc as we conceive it, they couldn’t have chosen a better cast of Doctors and companions.
The Sands of Time
As the multiverse is breaking, there’s a real motif of sand. You can see it on the standard issue cover, with sand creatures and sand blowing everywhere. This is, predictably, something that crosses over into the actual release as well. Listening as they envelop the TARDIS and all our characters was intense. The first minute or so of the audio really took me by surprise, taking me to the point of overwhelm before the familiar Series One theme comes in to top it all off.
Joining the Doctors on this adventure was Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker), a long-lasting companion to the Doctor. Knowing what a fan writer Lisa McMullin is of her TARDIS team, I need to commend her writing of Chenka. Liv’s previously met the Ninth Doctor in the story “Flatpack”, although I’m fairly certain this is set before either of them are able to remember it. While she’s a little out of her depth in the craziness of Time Lord lore, she holds her own against the Lumiat (Gina McKee).
If there’s one character in this story who needs an introduction, it’s the Lumiat. Thankfully it’s something that the story takes time to explain. In my opinion, she’s the best part of this story. Letting Eccleston interact with non-traditional incarnations of the Doctor and Master was the coolest decision the Once & Future series has made so far. I thought with Liv that we could have gotten into some cool “Day of the Master” callbacks, but that’s not the case. For an audio centered on Big Finish exclusive characters, this is remarkably accessible and justified. Such a good time all around.
The series is careering toward a conclusion in Doctor Who – Once and Future: The Union, which is out in about a week as of the time I’m writing this. Although I’ve enjoyed each part in isolation, I can’t help but wonder if this story will conclude well. I’m a little worried, but at the same time, seeing writers like Matt Fitton attached really sets me at ease. I look forward to seeing where this final chapter (before next year’s “Coda: The Final Act”) takes the story.
There’s still lots to uncover about the degeneration weapon and the diamond array, but this story really sets the final few pieces in play. But for every question that’s answered, more come up. I only wish that the series were longer, because there’s some genuinely cool ideas on show here. Although, “Time Lord Immemorial” is way more fun than not, offering up a few cool answers, some high concept setpieces, and a touching tribute to the late great David Warner. Definitely don’t sit this one out, hour just flew by and I definitely hit this up a second time!
You can pick up your own copy of Doctor Who – Once and Future: Time Lord Immemorial out now from Big Finish productions! It’s available for purchase exclusively here. The story is available individually as a collector’s CD for £10.99, or download for £8.99. The special edition is now sold out on CD, but can still be ordered as a download only for £62. For more Big Finish reviews, lore discussion and geeking out about all things Doctor Who, be sure to follow Tardis Central for more!