Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor Adventures: Sullivan and Cross- AWOL (Big Finish Review)

In true Timey-Wimey fashion, the latest Big Finish story arc is being told out of order! With the Fourth Doctor Adventures range recorded years in advance, we have to wait until 2024 to see Naomi Cross’s proper debut as a companion. But in the meantime, she’s having a brief stint at modern UNIT in the Nemesis series alongside Kate Stewart and Osgood (with Harry along for the ride), and now it’s time to get them back home…

But before they even leave, we have the latest entry in The Seventh Doctor Adventures, with Eleanor Crooks’ Naomi Cross and Christopher Naylor’s Harry Sullivan, joining Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor for two new stories, featuring a surprise origin story and the return of the Doctor’s deadliest enemy, the Daleks…

London Orbital

The opening story by John Dorney is simply a delight. He’s always delivers on his scripts, and this is no exception, with the Seventh Doctor, Harry and Naomi facing off against Elves from another realm! Usually, Doctor Who offers some explanation as to fantasy creatures or horror monsters being real. While we kind of get that here, they essentially are elves from another realm, who use magic – and it’s all the better for it.

Sylvester McCoy remains largely absent from the first half of proceedings, turning up in the part one cliff-hanger and ducking out of the second episode about halfway through. But he’s on absolute fine form here, garnering that perfect mix of silly, dark and fun all in the neat bow it needs. The Seventh Doctor undeniably feels like the one you’d want to fight elves, and the script absolutely delivers on the premise (and allows McCoy to say some funky elf names in his iconic accent), never letting up.

Ultimately, this is Harry and Naomi’s time to shine, and they excel. Having appeared in the first three UNIT: Nemesis sets, Naomi was always off to the side, bar her first story, Fire and Ice, also written by Dorney. So, this is really the first time she’s front and centre and can prove her worth as a companion. Her dynamic with Harry is a joy, and she’s exactly the sort of feisty character the story needs, taking everything in her stride no matter how unbelievable. Harry, meanwhile, is just as good as ever, Christopher Naylor once again proving his worth in the shoes of the late great Ian Marter, and it’s a joy to see him paired with a different Doctor to the Fourth. This is really his story, and it’s worthy of him, providing some backstory to Harry’s character and how he joined UNIT while also showcasing his desire for peace and role of negotiator against Hywel Morgan’s delightful Keryth as the villain of the piece.

There are some lovely set pieces layered throughout, and Steve Foxon does wonders with the soundscape of the Elvish realms, and the regular London also. Gorgeous visuals are conjured in your mind, particularly towards the end of the second episode, and you can have a whole lot of fun imagining Sylvester McCoy and Ian Marter outside a busy Hospital holding magical artefacts in front of an army of Elves. Overall, this story is a triumph and once again reiterates John Dorney as one of the best writers for the franchise!

Scream of the Daleks

The second episode continues the quality and fun of the set, in huge bounds. It’s both relatively small and also quite large scale in terms of location, and you don’t stop smiling while listening. McCoy is the perfect Doctor for this story and it’s a joy to see his Doctor just have fun as he arrives at the Celtic settlement with Naomi. We really get to see how Naomi plays off against the Doctor here, not something we saw much of in the previous entry, and it’s a delight. It’s really interesting how this is our first time properly hearing Naomi as companion, despite having travelled with the Fourth Doctor and as such our perspective on that series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures will be one of comparison, rather than first impressions…

Harry doesn’t do a whole lot, but that’s okay after the last story and he gets a little band of companions to run around with leading to some stellar moments such as him pretending to be the Beatles in part two… There’s an intriguing mystery layered throughout, and you really question how this fits with the usual Dalek MO. Of course, once the titular screaming boys appear, things ramp up and you get some absolutely delightful Dalek action. The Doctor has many innovative ways to describe Daleks here while he also still has the stern side to prevent his greatest foes from their task which McCoy plays as well as always. It’s been a while since we’ve heard this Doctor face off against the Daleks, and it’s a brilliant return for this dynamic. There’s a nice timey-wimey element subtly entered into the plot, but ultimately this is just an all round great time, with atmosphere, hoards of Daleks and this new/old/it’s-confusing TARDIS team.

Lisa McMullin has clearly had her cake and eaten it, being allowed to finally write for this Doctor and this villain, and like Dorney, proves herself as one of the greatest Big Finish writers. When you have these two on writing duty, it’s not possible to have a bad set, and this just proves that to the maximum.

THE EXTRAS

There’s not a whole wealth to accompany this particular release, but there’s some lovely interviews with John Dorney discussing the out-of-order Harry and Naomi arc, Eleanor Crooks talking about working with Sylvester rather than Tom, and Naylor on playing Harry once again.

The Seventh Doctor Adventures: Sullivan and Cross – AWOL was released in November 2022. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website here until 31 December 2022, and on general sale after this date.

Synopsis:

Sometimes a Time Lord forgets precisely where he left things – keys, screwdrivers… companions! Harry Sullivan and Naomi Cross are stuck in the wrong time, so when the TARDIS arrives, they give up their 21st-century lives to find a way home.

But as they join the Doctor – a different version to any they’ve met before – Harry and Naomi are in for a few perilous stops along the way…

London Orbital by John Dorney (4 parts)
Long ago, a massacre in a suburban house led to the young Harry Sullivan joining UNIT. But the murders were never solved. Years later, Harry and Naomi Cross investigate an oddity in the London Underground and uncover a whole different side to the capital.

Creatures of myth are running amok across the city in a conflict going back decades. And somewhere in the shadows lurks a new incarnation of their old friend… the Doctor. And he’s here to stop a war.

Scream of the Daleks by Lisa McMullin (2 parts)
Halloween 1969. The Doctor, Harry and Naomi respond to a scream for rescue. They find that people have been dying on the same spot on this day across millennia.

But in their bid to stop the nightmare, the travellers have unleashed the Doctor’s old enemy. This may be one cry for help better left unanswered…

Cast:

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)

Christopher Naylor (Harry Sullivan)

Eleanor Crooks (Naomi Cross)

Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Saffron Coomber (Elidir / Byrne)

Carly Day (Gilly)

Candida Gubbins (Nimriel / May)

Youssef Kerkour (Agrandir)

Hywel Morgan (Keryth)

Cameron Percival (Cavan)

Joshua Riley (Balmaris)

Sam Stafford (Harper / Lathrael)

Mandy Weston (Sarya / Margolis)

Production Credits:

Cover Art by Caroline Tankersley

Director Bethany Weimers

Executive Producer Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs

Music by Steve Foxon

Producer Emma Haigh

Script Editor Matt Fitton

Sound Design by Steve Foxon

Written by John Dorney & Lisa McMullin

Senior Producer John Ainsworth & David Richardson

Recommended Listening

UNIT: Nemesis 1

UNIT: Nemesis 2

The Seventh Doctor Adventures: Silver and Ice

Regular Big Finish reviewer for We Made This, keen aspiring-writer, massive Doctor Who fan and slightly weird individual. He/him.

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