One of the positives of a national lockdown was the sudden availability of David Tennant to reprise the role as the Tenth Doctor for multiple Big Finish adventures. From The Tenth Doctor and River Song to Dalek Universe 1, there were more Doctor Who audio dramas featuring the Tenth Doctor than ever before. One of the most anticipated releases was Out of Time 1, which featured the team up of two huge Doctors – Tennant’s Tenth and Tom Baker’s iconic Fourth Doctor.
2021 brings another multi-Doctor team up as the Tenth Doctor encounters (for a second time) his Fifth incarnation, played by Peter Davison. There’s an interesting legacy between these Doctors that goes beyond the fabulous 2007 Children In Need special Time Crash; Tennant is also married to Georgia Tennant, daughter of Peter Davison (she also played the Tenth Doctor’s daughter, but let’s leave that one aside…) When the Tenth and Fifth Doctor’s share the limelight, the dynamic is familiar and energised, making for an entertaining story.
Ahead of 2022’s Out of Time 3, featuring the Tenth, Sixth Doctors and the Weeping Angels, Out of Time 2 sees the Tenth and Fifth Doctors facing the Cybermen in the catacombs beneath Paris. Joining me to review this tale is my 15 year old son Ben, a huge Doctor Who fan, to delve into this Big Finish release…
Multi-Doctor stories are always a treat. They’re not always the crème de la crème of storytelling (see The Two Doctors and Dimensions in Time) but seeing different Doctors react to each other is always fun. The joy of the three Out of Time releases is seeing a modern Doctor interact with a classic Doctor and the brilliance of Big Finish is that pesky things like special effects and actors looking much, much older than the Doctors they play don TV doesn’t get in the way. Last year’s release was a blast; putting Tom Baker’s Doctor up against David Tennant’s. Arguably the story wasn’t the strongest, but when you the big leagues together in a scene, you can forgive the rest.
Fortunately, Out of Time 2: The Gates of Hell is another great release with a much stronger story to boot too. The Paris catacombs make for a hugely, atmospheric set piece and writer David Llewellyn weaves in plenty of of twists and turns as the Doctors begin on separate paths – and time periods – before working together to stop the Cyberman threat across multiple eras. From encounters with eighteenth century French aristocracy to World War II Nazi soldiers, this is a big, big adventure done with a surprising intimacy.
It’s a relatively small cast; alongside the two Doctors is companion-eqsue time agent Tina Drake (Shelley Conn). She has plenty of skill, sass and intelligence that she never feels second fiddle to the almighty team-up of Doctors Five and Ten. In fact, I’d be surprised if Big Finish didn’t find to bring her back for an encore performance. Veteran Doctor Who writer and performer Mark Gatiss gets to play two version of French nobleman Joseph Delon, while Glen McCready gets to play two commanding roles as Marcel Delon and Charles VI. Nicholas Briggs might be known for his many Dalek personalities across Big Finish (in addition to his multiple executive producing, directing and writing roles), but he does an excellent job of bringing the early classic-era Cybermen to life too.
But it’s all down to the interplay between Tennant and Davison and these two play it to perfection; setting it after the events of Time Crash, there is a fondness between them that differs from the slightly arrogance and antagonism of other multi-Doctor team ups. Like last year’s Baker / Tennant pairing, this is an amiable, respectful quality between these Doctors and they feel more like partners than unwilling allies. While all of the Out of Time releases are framed as Tenth Doctor stories first, Davison gets plenty to do, even kicking off the events of the story and it’s a delight to see them both have moments where they take the lead. There’s still all that banter – the Tenth Doctor’s reaction to the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS is a lot of fun – and given the Paris setting, some playful references to 70’s story City of Death and the almighty personality of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.
The team up feels more familiar than the magical pairing of Baker and Tennant, but that works in the story’s favour. It’s well paced, with a formidable threat, multiple time jumps and a few twists along the way. It doesn’t throw in hundreds of Cybermen, meaning that their plan is somewhat more insidious and that works. The Cybermen feel like a threat in the same way single Dalek stories often succeed.
Out of Time 2: The Gates of Hell is a triumph and the better of the two Out of Time releases so far. With a great script by Llewellyn, taught direction by Ken Bentley and a strong support cast, it milks the Tenth and Fifth Doctor pairing for all its worth while also feeling like a strong time-travel Cyberman story. It might have felt like a long time since the last Out of Time (and we’ve another year to go before the next), but it was certainly worth the wait.
After the treat of last years Tom Baker/David Tennant pairing in the first Out of Time instalment, The Gates of Hell was going to have a hard time living up to the glory. While I don’t think it quite does that, it’s still a very good story, and we’re allowed to witness what Time Crash might have been were it not a mini episode.
Obviously there’s more familial connections here, with David Tennant and Peter Davison, which seeps into their dynamic in the story as it progresses. We even get a bit more team up than before, with the two Doctors spending most of the story together as opposed to the split ups that happened in Out of Time 1 sometimes. There can be similarities drawn with Time Crash here for a number of reasons, most evidently the Tenth Doctor’s giddy enthusiasm and fanboyish nature at spending some time with the Fifth, while the Fifth’s TARDIS is the one they use, neatly inverting the setting of Time Crash.
Other than the headline pairing, the supporting cast manage to hold their own, an impressive feat against double Doctors, most notably Tina Drake, superbly played by Shelley Conn, and acts as perfect foil and glue to both Doctors while Mark Gatiss’ Joseph Delon works perfectly as the lynchpin for the Cybermen’s plan.
The Cybermen themselves are the perfect villain for this story, and with only limited numbers seen; while plenty more are described, their presence lends itself to a more threatening nature than a huge army. Interestingly, their plan and achievement within the story is on a massive scale which the story downplays to allow for the nature of the Doctor pairing which actually manages to succeed rather than the missed opportunity it could have been.
While this is arguably the better story of the two Out of Time‘s, it’s not my favourite. The Tenth/Fifth Doctors and the Cybermen is a fun time, but even that can’t quite beat the fan excitement and magic of the Tenth/Fourth Doctors and Daleks. But I don’t feel it’s trying to, which grounds the story more on its own two feet. If there had to be one negative, it’s that we’re thrown in straight away so we might feel like we missed something as it propels itself to the pairing. And then the last scene almost feels slightly unfinished or a set up for future stories. And if that’s the case… Well who knows, maybe we may get an entire boxset of these two in the future. And what a treat that would be.
Doctor Who: Out of Time 2 – The Gates of Hell has been written by David Llewellyn and directed by Ken Bentley. It is available to purchase exclusively at the Big Finish site here, before going on general release on the 31st August 2021.
Fifteen minutes of behind the scenes interviews accompany this latest release. Producer David Richardson talks about early discussions to create a story with David Tennant and Peter Davison and how that became reality during the Covid pandemic. He also draws on the nostalgia of using The Invasion era Cybermen for the story, while writer David Llewellyn reflects on the opportunity to write his first Cybermen story featuring his Doctor, the Fifth.
Mark Gattis, Shelley Conn and Glem McCready all offer their own insights into the roles they are playing, and working with two Doctors. David Tennant and Peter Davison have great banter outside their Doctor role, reflecting on the humour and ‘professionalism’ of working with family, their experience of working on Time Crash, while is very clear that Davison is the senior Doctor of the two!
Finally, there are almost six minutes of music from Howard Carter. With heavy chords, gorgeous orchestral movements and racing strings, it has the magic of a gothic fairytale mixed with ominous, atmospheric moments that capture the feel of the story. The industrial synth to reflect the Cybermen is a nice touch. It plays like a tribute to Hans Zimmer meets Angelo Badalamenti with some 90s slasher movie vibes, capped with a flash of heroic fanfare that would feel at home in any good Doctor Who story.
Paris, 1809. The Fifth Doctor takes a tour of the Catacombs and meets a sassy Time Agent doing the same…
Paris, 1944. The Tenth Doctor misses his target and lands in occupied France. He hides from the Nazis – in the Catacombs.
A collision of two Doctors’ timelines triggers a temporal catastrophe, granting the Cybermen dominion over the Earth.
The Doctors must travel back in time to find the source of the Cyber-invasion and close the Gates of Hell…
David Tennant (The Doctor)
Peter Davison (The Doctor)
Nicholas Briggs (The Cybermen)
Shelley Conn (Tina Drake)
Mark Gatiss (Joseph Delon)
Glen McCready (Marcel Delon / Charles VI)
Cover Art by Tom Webster
Director Ken Bentley
Executive Producer Nicholas Briggs, Jason Haigh-Ellery
Music by Howard Carter
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Sound Design by Howard Carter
Written by David Llewellyn