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Doctor Who: The Sirens Of Time by Nicholas Briggs

01/05/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: The Sirens Of Time in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Sirens Of Time in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minutes. Price: CD: 7.99 (UK), Download: 0.99 (UK). ISBN: 1-903654-28-9) cast: Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Andrew Fettes, Anthony Keetch, Michael Wade, Sarah Mowat, Maggie Stables, Colin McIntyre, John Wadmore, Mark Gatiss, Nicholas Briggs and Nicholas Pegg.

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'The Sirens Of Time' was first heard ten years ago. In this first outing, Doctors 5, 6 and 7 make their audio debut in an adventure that spans time periods and locations and involves a fiendish and convoluted plot. Welcome to Big Finish where 'Doctor Who' just got bigger.

The Time Lords are under attack by an unknown race that has complete control of time and space. They know it's something to do with the Doctor and start to send him a series of messages.

Just after landing on a planet, the Doctor in his Seventh incarnation receives a transmission from the Time Lords but it's so garbled he is unable to respond. Stepping outside he hears a cry for help and has to rescue a woman, drowning in quicksand. She reveals that she is the only survivor from a spaceship which crashed on the planet's surface. Soon they are running for cover as more ships collide with the planet's surface.

In another time, another place, the Doctor in his Fifth incarnation finds himself in the bowels of a cargo ship. It's about to be torpedoed by the Germans. He'd like to get back in his TARDIS but finds his key won't work. When a woman appears in the cargo hold, he doesn't have time to consider why they seem to have a female crew member in 1917 before the ship is blown apart.

Expecting to be at the centre of an exploding TARDIS, the Doctor, Number Six this time, unexpectedly finds himself at an intergalactic conference on board a star cruiser. Before he's had time to discuss the facilities, a massive time wave hits the ship and hundreds of people die. With only an android crew member and a waitress for company, he must try to drag them away from the time wave.

This is a complete four episode adventure with an intriguing jiggery-pokery time-travel plot that is sufficiently complicated to make good listening. Each of the three episodes in which one of the Doctors is featured ends on a cliff-hanger. The final episode brings them all together. Making this a three-hander was also a neat way to introduce a franchise. Once the three get together, we are treated to some amusing banter and a triple dose of what occasionally sounds like the Three Stooges.

In fact, it's never the plot that makes for a satisfying audio. Afterwards, you might think about the holes and assumptions cheekily made by the writers but during the drama you are usually caught up the characters. Often the interaction between the characters, the little dramatic build-ups and the cliff-hangers keep you from deep analysis until later. Reflecting on it can either make you more impressed or perhaps realise that the holes are too deep to explain away.

This story cleverly uses a new enemy and ties it to the history by bringing in the Time Lords. The nature of the enemy allows a three-way plot which takes place at various points in time and place which means each episode has a different and intriguing focus. This is a great re-introduction to the classic doctors. All three had been off the screen for some time, so their unique characterisation needed to be re-drawn and fast. It's all about interference, something the Doctor cannot resist doing. It's what makes his statement about being an observer in his latest regeneration rather laughable. 'All of time and space and my own wooden spoon for stirring it', might be more accurate. If he didn't, nothing would happen, the Daleks would win and we could all go home and get into our Cyberman costumes. Of course, he is going to interfere and we love it when he does. Unravelling sometimes tortuous and demanding plots is also part of why we choose to love the Doctor and why he is so enduring as a character. I'm sure many people bought this audio ten years ago and were hooked like me. All the freedom of time and space and a whole universe in our heads, how could it fail?

Once upon a time, some guys got together to make some pretty nifty audio dramas. It's hard to believe that its ten years since they opened their first broom cupboard and persuaded three Doctors to step inside it and shout a lot. Some say it is the scripts, some say it is the availability of the Dalek master but most agree it is the legendary lunches that make the Big Finish Audios such an amazing experience. I think an exceptional marketing plan would be to send out one of these lunches with every order. That way the true fan can add an extra dimension to their experience.

Sue Davies

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