Forty-Five (2008)

To celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Doctor Who, Big Finish decided that they were going to do four single part stories that have the same theme. When they did this for the 100th release the theme was 100. Well to celebrate the 45th Anniversary the theme was 45. In the past I have not liked single part stories. To me they just don’t work because I don’t think that you could write a good strong story in 25 minutes. Whenever they have done stories like The Death Collectors or Exotron it isn’t the three part stories that let the release down but the single part. 100 was also a mild disappointment for me, some stories were good but then there were some that were poor. When they announced that they were going to do the same thing for Forty-Five my heart sank because I thought that they were going to make the same mistakes again. However this story is the exception and has started to change my mind about whether single part stories work. One other point to mote is that all the writers on this story are making their debut for Big Finish.

The first part was False Gods and written by Mark Morris. Set in 1902 it is an entertaining story that only really comes into its own in the last few minutes. Its quite strange that with the new series saying there are no Timelords yet in the Big Finish universe they are all over the cosmos. Morris wrote a story that created good characters that when the episode finished you felt you knew them well. The setting was quite a good one and I write this because normally historical settings are something that I am not a fan of but I put that to one side and just tried to figure out where the 45 theme would be placed. The moment that Ace got transported back in time was a shock and I then wondered how they were going to resolve this within the 25 minute format however they did and by the end of the first part I thought that the story was very good. Of the guest stars in this episode the best was Lucy Adams who played Jane Templeton who we thought was just a normal archaeologist but then turned out to be a Timelord. That was the second shock of the story and her death. Another shock that I felt came when the Doctor got really angry and vented that anger (rightly so) at Hex. Its something that I don’t recall witnessing in any Doctor Who form. The other guests of this story also did very well. Benedict Cumberbatch (really that’s his name, I’ve check on Wikipedia) was enjoyable as Howard Carter with Paul Lincoln putting in a good performance as Robert Charles. Another good performance came from Jon Glover as Creodont. As a story it was very good which packed such a lot in 25 minutes and managed to make it all seem sense. As an episode I would give it 3/5.

The second story was in fact my favourite, Order of Simplicity was written by Nick Scovell. This story was good because it used the Doctors necessity to be able to solve a problem or puzzle. Which is a character trait that follows all Doctors. I liked the idea that there is a virus that makes you stupid because most viruses that occur in Sci-Fi tend to work to kill you. Jon Glover put in another good performance as Dr Verryman who played the baddie role very well. Lucy Adams also gave another good performance as Mrs Crisp. There was something sinister about her performance which I really liked. Benedict Cumber batch and Paul Lincoln put in equally good and enjoyable performances as they are credited as Thing 1 & 2. Something that did strike me was the idea that there was a room of stupid people and then the moment came when they fought back. Nick Scovell has written a good story that is a lot darker but just as enjoyable as False Gods and what I liked about this story is the Doctor is put in a position where his intelligence is diminishing by the minute and that is a scary thought. The rating I would give for this episode would be 3/5.

The third story was Casualties of War written by Mark Michalowski which is the only story that I felt was the weakest of the four. It wasn’t a bad story by any means but it was just OK. The idea that the story has loose links to the 1989 story The Curse of Fenric was a nice surprise as it added a more human side to the story. However I think that the looking back at Ace’s past has been done in the Fenric story and so to spend any more time on it is a waste really and even if they did put a new spin on Ace’s childhood then I think its something that can best be left untold. That said there were still some good characters and equally very good actors. Beth Chalmers was perhaps the best of the guest stars because of the fact that she played two good characters in the form of May & Audrey. Audrey was the best because that was the one that has the most emotional link to Ace being that she is Ace’s mother. Overall it was an ok story that doesn’t really leave a mark on me. The rating I would give for this story is 3/5.

The final story of the release was The Word Lord and was my second favourite story which with the quality of the stories is quite a strong statement. The story felt like it could have been a four parter easily but somehow managed to make it fit inside 25 minutes. One I things I like about this particular episode is that it has the greatest name for a baddie. Nobody No-one is the sort of nemesis that the Doctor should be facing more often and one that the TV Doctor could face. When I pictured what Nobody No-one would look like I imagine Skagra from Shada (the 1979 abandoned adventure). I don’t really know why but I suspect that might have something to do with Paul Reynolds who plays Nobody. The episode felt longer than 25 minutes which shows how much they managed to fit in such as short time. The frequent 45 references went un-noticed by me and when they were bought back in a list of when the number was mentioned was quite freaky. The setting also helps create the tension. Setting it in an Antarctic Base isn’t anything original but it helps add to the feeling of the story. Linda Marlowe performed well as Commander Claire Spencer as she was very authoritative throughout this story as was Andrew Dickens as Captain James Hurst. A very good story that keeps you enthralled throughout. In a way you feel that its wasted in just a single episode. The rating I would give this story is 4/5.

The release as a whole was a very good one and was a fitting tribute to Doctor Who. It seems that they have finally got the hang of telling short stories. Like the previous 7th Doctor story Kingdom of Silver’s story Keepsake the short episode format was well written and entertaining. I really look forward to seeing whether Big Finish can keep up this good form. Sylvester McCoy was very good in this release and really shone for me in The Word Lord & Order of Simplicity. Sophie Aldred continues to play the loyal sidekick well but really stood out for me in Casualties of War with Philip Olivier sort of putting in a performance that we come to expect from him. Ken Bentley directed all episodes with a firm discipline and didn’t allow for the action to slow up and thus cause a rush at the end and ruining it. Ken Bentley is a real treasure for Doctor Who


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