Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #16: “Storm Warning”

This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.

#16 – “Storm Warning”

From Big Finish’s site:

October, 1930. His Majesty’s Airship, the R101, sets off on her maiden voyage to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Empire, carrying the brightest lights of the Imperial fleet. Carrying the hopes and dreams of a breathless nation.

Not to mention a ruthless spy with a top-secret mission, a mysterious passenger who appears nowhere on the crew list, a would-be adventuress destined for the Singapore Hilton… and a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.

There’s a storm coming. There’s something unspeakable, something with wings, crawling across the stern. Thousands of feet high in the blackening sky, the crew of the R101 brace themselves. When the storm breaks, their lives won’t be all that’s at stake…

The future of the galaxy will be hanging by a thread.

Written By: Alan Barnes

Directed By: Gary Russell


Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard); Gareth Thomas (Lord Tamworth); Nicholas Pegg (Lt-Col Frayling); Barnaby Edwards (Rathbone); Hylton Collins (Chief Steward Weeks); Helen Goldwyn (Triskelion); Mark Gatiss (Announcer)

***minor spoilers ahead***

Big Finish welcomes the return of Paul McGann to his role as the 8th Doctor, his first (of many) portrayals since the 1996 FOX TV movie.  Along for the ride is India Fisher, playing one of my favorite companions in the Doctor Who lexicon, Charlotte “Charley” Pollard, in her first appearance in the role.  As I mentioned in my review for “Winter for the Adept,” which also featured Ms. Fisher, Charley was essentially the prototype for 9th/10th Doctor companion Rose Tyler, and in my humble opinion, she’s an even more interesting character.  Much like with Rose or any of the other companions, a solid character introduction is in order if you’re going to follow their journey properly, and “Storm Warning” provides just that for Charley.  There is a lot of foundation poured for her entire character arc, much of which will come to a head later on.  For now, it’s best just to enjoy it as it unfolds.

The adventure begins with the Doctor encountering the airship R101, stuck in a time loop at the moment of her destruction, and using his TARDIS to nudge it just past that point so that the souls aboard can finally find rest.  Due to miscalculations and attacks by 5th dimensional vortesaurs, however, the Doctor finds himself aboard the doomed airship, his TARDIS ejected as ballist.  This is where he meets Charley, who has stowed away in the hopes of finding adventure and romance in India, where she hopes to begin a series of globe-hopping adventures.  Long story short, the both of them are found out, and the Doctor passes themselves off as German spies… which you would think would only make matters worse.

The R101 has a secret mission: it is carrying aboard it a member of an alien race, which the crew of the airship hope to return to its people in the promise of trade, thus cementing the strength and power of the British Empire.  The meeting, naturally, doesn’t go to plan, and the result is the release of a sect of warriors known as “Un-Creators,” who declare open war on all of humanity.  It’s up to the Doctor and Charley to put this menace to rest.

As with many stories in the Big Finish line, and especially when dealing with longer arcs, this first adventure isn’t nearly as good as some of the later ones in the arc, but it’s still a lot of fun and necessary to properly set the story into motion.  It’s well worth the listen just for the establishment of Charley as a character and for the restablishment of Paul McGann’s Doctor.  One of the things I enjoyed about his performance in the FOX movie (which is one of the few things to enjoy in that movie) is the idea that he’s almost a near-perfect amalgamation of the previous seven incarnations and sets up the prototype of the kind of insane fun he’ll have in his future incarnations.  It’s easy to see, especially through later adventures, how this Doctor can become his future incarnations after being the one to pull the final trigger in the Time War.  In a lot of ways, he is the bridge between “classic” and “modern” Doctors in that regard, and these stories serve to illustrate that point so well, even if they couldn’t possibly have been planned to do so.  McGann makes the role his own as certainly as any of the other Doctors past and future.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m biased on this front.  Big Finish made me a fan of Doctor Who in the first place.  I discovered the line a little later in the series with “Bloodtide” and “Dust Breeding.”  I enjoyed what I heard immensely, which prompted me to go back and get my paws on as many of these as I could in those early days.  I’ve since come to appreciate all of the other Doctors and companions in my journeys, but it’s the adventures of the 8th Doctor and Charley that made me a true fan.  At the time, there was no 9th Doctor and Rose, so this was the latest incarnation of the character.  With these audios, Big Finish was able to push some boundaries that they just couldn’t push with the other Doctors in quite this way.  If you stick with the series, you’ll see what I mean.  The first few adventures are just fun (much like you would expect with the other Doctors), and then they get unspeakably big later.