Big Finish are trying something slightly different with this trilogy in the Doctor Who Main Range, with having two one hour long stories in each release, seemingly related by similar titles. This month, we’re joining the Sixth Doctor and Flip with the stories Vortex Ice and Cortex Fire; today, I’ll be reviewing the first of the two tales, Vortex Ice, written by Jonathan Morris.
In search of ‘exotic particles’, the Doctor and Flip arrive 700 feet underground, in a mine in Northern Mexico – only to run into a scientific expedition. Among their number, an exobiologist. They’re all on the hunt for alien life! Deep underground, the team finally uncovers a cave of vast crystals – like ice, despite the heat. And inside the crystal: something frozen. Something trapped in time. If only it were something simple, like a monster. But it’s far, far worse than that.
Doctor Who and underground usually work really well. It adds to the sense of claustrophobia and impending doom that serves the series well. A mine and ghosts mentioned in the first two minutes; it means you know you’re going to be in for a classic Doctor Who treat. Especially with the brilliant music that accompanies, kudos to Joe Kraemer.
It’s not long before the Sixth Doctor (yay!) and Flip (double yay!) emerge from the TARDIS under Chihuahua in Mexico. Yes, the dogs are named after the place. Once the Doctor and Flip are found, there’s a brilliant rapport between the two, and it may be some of my favourite Doctor/Companion dialogue may happen in the early moments of this story. Well done Jonathan Morris.
We quickly learn exactly what the exotic particles that the TARDIS and the mining team have discovered, it doesn’t really solve any mysteries; rather it adds to it. These types of reveals are exactly what makes an intriguing story, and I love it.
I don’t know if I’m saying this just because I watched the film the day before I wrote this review, but certain aspects really remind me of Prometheus, especially with the exploration that goes on, along with the revelations it brings to the fore. If you liked the pacing of Prometheus, I think you’ll like Vortex Ice.
Speaking of Vortex Ice, the concept behind what Vortex Ice is, is really interesting; and a concept that I hope Big Finish uses again in the future.
When it comes to the cliffhanger of the first episode of Vortex Ice, it’s one hell of a humdinger, unless you really look at a certain aspect of the release, and then you, like I, will hit yourself on the forehead and realise you’re blind to the obvious. I’m an idiot sometimes. Well, most of the time probably.
The second half opens with the dilemma that the first leaves us with; and it’s incredibly familiar to anyone who knows how a bootstrap works. One gripe that I have with this bootstrap is how the person that Flip interacts with doesn’t cause a Series 1 alien to appear. It’s very awkward to describe without ruining anything, sorry.
There’s a moment near the end of the story that surprisingly caught my ear was a Flip line that comes straight from The Curse of Fatal Death; I don’t know if it was intentional at all, but it did let me do that “laugh” you do when you’re alone and you breathe forcefully out of your nose. You know what I’m talking about.
Unlike last months release, Alien Heart/ Dalek Soul, it’s not as clear as to how this story is going to relate to Cortex Fire, and I think that that’s okay; I wouldn’t want every release in this trilogy to be part of a cookie cutter outline.
Overall, Vortex Ice is a decent Sixth Doctor story that is very focussed on the time aspect of the Doctor’s life. Flip is welcomed back on board the TARDIS with open arms; and as one of the first stories I’ve listened to featuring her, I can say that she works extremely well alongside Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor.
Should you want to purchase Vortex Ice/ Cortex Fire, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or a £12.99 download which you can purchase here.