To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC have created a big multimedia initiative. Doom’s Day tells the story of Doom (Sooz Kempner), the self-proclaimed ‘universe’s greatest assassin’. She has 24 hours to find the Doctor, or she’ll die. It’s quite an interesting premise, although I’ll admit I wasn’t gripped by the original trailers. Hopefully, Big Finish’s contribution to the story, Doom’s Day: Dying Hours is able to change my mind.
The set covers hours 20 through 23 of Doom’s Day, right at the end of her quest to find the Doctor. These numbers may sound a little intimidating, but I could start this set with no knowledge of the other Doom’s Day stories and understand it just fine. Will Doom find her Doctor? Will she save herself from the clutches of Death? Read on and find out in this spoiler-free review of the latest Doctor Who audio drama.
Dawn of an Everlasting Peace
The first story, “Dawn of an Everlasting Peace”, is written by longtime Doctor Who contributor Jacqueline Rayner. I recently praised her work on the Sixth Doctor Adventures range, so she’s clearly still a talented writer. This is her first story that’s not a part of the Purity Saga since “I, Rorius” from the Lone Centurion series. The story sees Doom arrive on Venus in 3975 when the Galactic Council signed the non-aggression pact.
You may wonder why that last sentence is so particular. Allow me to explain. This story’s set around the legendary classic serial “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. This is the same pact mentioned by Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney) that resulted in 25 years of peace. As a massive fan of 60s Dalek stories and the creatures on the Council, this was a lot of fun to listen to. I didn’t see this story coming, and it’s such an interesting narrative gap to explore. I’m shocked that in 60 years, nobody else has done it, so no time better than the 60th!
It’s not all political intrigue, though. Kempner shows a bit of a sensitive side to Doom when she encounters Lonnet (Susie Riddel) and Klorin (Trevor Littledale). They’re the emotional heart of the story, grounding this high-stakes mission in something surprisingly relatable. I hesitated to get into Doom’s Day, and this story immediately had me sold on it. Kempner’s a great lead, and her comic timing opens up whole new layers of storytelling potential. Overall, a great opener full of great legacy characters and a fabulous introduction to Doom’s Dying Hours.
A Date with Destiny
Doom’s adventures continue with none other than Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri). Jackie has been in just about every audio adventure from this past September. I’m not sure what the cause of this renaissance is, but I’m a big supporter. With every story, Coduri is uncovering new dimensions to Jackie, and I’ve only come to love her more. It’s only bolstered by writer Robert Valentine’s tight and fast-paced script in “A Date with Destiny”.
Kempner’s chemistry with Coduri is great. Letting two predominantly comedic characters play off one another like that was an inspired choice. The scenes in Jackie’s flat, particularly, were great fun, and it was a real turning point in the story and their relationship. The whole thing made for a great second half, which kept building until an explosive conclusion. It’s also nice to see Jackie getting involved with some of the wider Whoniverse is always great fun, especially since her daughter is off travelling the cosmos.
The story had a great bit of tension with Destiny (Yasmin Bannerman), who was a great rival for Doom. Seeing the two time-travelling assassins competing and playing off one another was a sight to behold. She was a well-defined antagonist who fit the story well. Imagine Terminator, but make it a comedy and also about bounty hunting. Lots of fun to be had here in an epic hour for Doom and Jackie Tyler alike!
The Howling Wolves of Xan-Phear
The third story in this set is “The Howling Wolves of Xan-Phear”, and it comes to us from writer Simon Clark in his Doctor Who writing debut. Unsurprisingly, it sees Doom taken to Xan-Phear, a planet inhabited by sentient warring wolves. The title is quite descriptive in this case. Between this being a writer’s first outing into the Whoniverse and focusing on the Silence, a race that works on a very visual “seeing them, then forgetting them” level, I was a little nervous.
This is my first experience with the Silence at Big Finish, and I can happily say that they’re rather well done. While I still think they’re better on TV, they couldn’t be used in an audio drama any better. The second you hear that all-too-familiar growl, you know what’s up. In terms of the synopsis, the Silence is described as puppeteering the war, harkening back to the best use of the Silence in “Day of the Moon”. There’s some truly great stuff on show here, and I hope Clark is able to write for Doctor Who again someday.
There’s also no better time than now to talk about Terri (Becky Wright). She’s Doom’s assistant, clerking for the Lesser Order of Oberon and sending Doom on her missions. Terri’s been in all the stories so far, but this is probably the best story she has in the set. Inside her is the essence of all your favourite pop culture receptionists, and her banter with Doom is unmatched. She makes for a great foil for Kempner’s leading lady. While I don’t think this is the strongest story of the bunch, it’s got enough inventiveness and heart to make for an enjoyable hour.
The final story of Doom’s Day: Dying Hours is “The Crowd” by writer Lizzie Hopley. This is the big one you’ve been waiting for if you’ve seen the cast list. Doom finally meets the Doctor, the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), to be exact. This story is set during his travels with Charley (India Fisher), who also makes a stunning return. It’s a blast from the past, and what a Big Finish contribution to an anniversary needs.
The Crowd themselves are an engaging bunch, full of devastation, murder, and destruction. There’s quite a lot of action here, and for the set’s finale, it seems fitting. Also, compared to the single-target stories we’ve had previously, giving Doom a whole Crowd of targets was a cool choice. I’m also aware that other stories in other mediums have had her meet up with a couple of other Doctors, but let’s be real, nothing’s going to beat having Eight around.
As much as Doom’s grown on me, and as much as I loved Terri in the introduction, McGann is an absolute show-stealer. If you only listen to one story in the set, please make it this one. It feels like a story ripped right out of The Monthly Adventures with Doom as an interrupter of sorts. It’s loads of fun, just the right amount of bleak, and it closes off the set really nicely. Even though it was only four hours of Doom’s life, it feels like she’s grown considerably, particularly here. Between the Doctor, Charley, and the horrific Crowd, this is easily the best story in the set for me.
I enjoyed this set a lot more than I thought I would. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I honestly didn’t think this would be my sort of thing. I’ve never been more glad to be proven wrong. Having Doom interact with so many aspects of the Whoniverse is a great way to celebrate an anniversary, and it’s lovely that Kempner gets to play the role for a few hours on audio properly. There are some truly great stories in this set, with the first and last being particular standouts.
The set’s biggest flaw is that as much as the end of this feels like it’s leading somewhere, this isn’t the end of Doom’s Day. While each story ends fairly definitively, the final act here is prose that was published on the Doctor Who website. The medium shift was inevitable but a little frustrating for me, especially since cliffhanger resolutions and story conclusions make it necessary. However, the set in isolation is still really quite solid and something I recommend even to the most hesitant Doom’s Day fans.
Listeners can purchase Doom’s Day: Dying Hours exclusively from Big Finish Productions at the link. It’s available to own as a four-disc collector’s edition CD for £29.99 or as a download only for £22.99. The CD box set is limited to 3,000 copies, so people wanting to own one should get in quickly! For more reviews, news, and lore deep dives, be sure to follow the team here at Tardis Central!