The First Doctor is back, and this time, it’s different! Big Finish released the first of two planned box sets immediately after the broadcast of Twice Upon A Time that feature David Bradley’s portrayal of the First Doctor, alongside the cast from An Adventure In Space And Time. Today, I’ll be reviewing the second story from this box set, The Great White Hurricane by Guy Adams.
Rival gangs turn streets into battlegrounds, and the Doctor and his friends are caught in the crossfire. They find themselves separated, and lost in the cold.
As the hunt for a fugitive turns ever more desperate, a blizzard descends. The snow keeps falling. And soon it will prove as deadly as any weapon…
We went into the future that is 2003 in the previous story from this box set, The Destination Wars; and now, it’s time to go back in time to New York; with the TARDIS crew getting caught up in some turf war. The initial premise sounds somewhat reminiscent of the opening act of the TV Movie; and I’m not complaining whatsoever. So, without any further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
The Coming Storm
Talk about kicking a story off with a bang. Quite literally. It’s within the first minute of the story that Ian get’s shot. This is how you raise the stakes almost instantly. Most First Doctor stories start in somewhat of a humdrum pace; but Guy Adams decided, for the better, to start in a New-Who style, with everything kicking off. Not long after Ian gets shot, Susan gets kidnapped. It can’t get worse really, can it?
The way that the Doctor reacts to Susan’s kidnapping is utterly heartbreaking, and really reminds you how close of a bond they have. The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is undoubtedly a special and unique one; and hearing the Doctor in distress (no, not that one) is exactly how the First Doctor should be written; with compassion and love for his companions.
You think that things can’t get much worse for the Doctor, Susan, Ian or Barbara; but you’d be mistaken. Not only has Ian been shot and Susan been kidnapped, but the Doctor is also thrown into a cell by the local cops. Luckily for the Doctor though, assistance seems to be at hand in an unlikely place.
With everyone else incapacitated in some way, there’s only Barbara left to try and bring everyone back together. It’s a genius move on Guy Adams’ part to make Barbara the main protagonist; especially given the circumstances she finds herself in. In any story of the era, it would have been way more likely for it to be Barbara who was in peril, and it be up to Ian to make sure she’s okay. Don’t you love progression?
Coming back to Susan’s storyline, it’s great to hear her compassion thrive, even when it’s compassion towards her captor. What I enjoy about The Great White Hurricane is that none of the supporting characters in this release are totally black or white; they’re all different shades of grey, much like we all are as people. Nobody is totally saintly, nor is anyone totally evil. There’s a spectrum of humanity, and Guy manages to add characters who are all over the scale. And he’s also written a character called Daniel, so that’s nice. I’ll pretend that it was for me.
The relationship between the Doctor and his cellmate, Daniel, is absolutely beautifully written; an old and young mind meeting. Both locked up somewhat unfairly. Both trying to look out for all the little family they have left. Two kindred spirits from very different backgrounds. The entire scene is almost like poetry, and I love it.
Something that I’ve realised Guy thrives on is writing relationships between characters; no matter who they are. The Great White Hurricane is filled to the brim with relationships. Whether it be the Doctor and Daniel, Ian and Barbara, or Susan and Patrick, they all have greatly different relationships at their core, and it feels as if Guy is just showing off. Luckily, he has something to show off; it’s absolutely brilliant and engaging. If you’re wanting to learn how to write characters in any medium, I highly recommend you listen to this story.
I have to admit though, the cliffhanger of this story isn’t as action packed as some of them; with the revelation being something that, if you’re a history buff, I’m sure is incredibly interesting (even though the title of the story gives it away), but for me, just felt a bit lacklustre to be honest. It’s really fine though, I’m just nitpicking to try and find critique, as it would be difficult to criticise anything else from this opening episode.
The Frozen City
We start The Frozen City with a nice little dialogue between Susan and Patrick, and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a little bit of flirting happening between the two. Nothing too dramatic or serious, just a bit of fun. I know it’s really up to the listener to interpret these things, but personally I quite like the fact that when around people her age, Susan can act more like a young woman and less like her grandfathers granddaughter. I don’t know about you, but I’d find it incredibly difficult to flirt with anyone if my grandparents were three feet away.
It’s really interesting that in The Great White Hurricane there’s no real enemy or bad guys; the biggest threat is the extreme weather. Sometimes, there doesn’t need to be an extraterrestrial threat, all you need is the biting cold.
The Doctor’s determination to find Susan is brought to the fore yet again; and Daniel is more than happy to oblige to try and find his brother too.
Honestly, it’s really hard to talk in detail about what happens in this release; as it’s mainly the new pairs of characters trying to move to find one another as the hurricane worsens; it seems like this story is like an incredible game of chess. Sometimes you just have to move the pieces for a while before you do anything drastic.
Speaking of drastic, I complained that The Coming Storm had a slightly dull cliffhanger, but The Frozen City rectifies this by having an absolute corker. There’s a revelation and a great little piece of action that makes you want to journey right into the next episode. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing.
The Killer In The Snow
I think that the most interesting aspect of The Killer In The Snow from the off is, yet again, the relationships between all the characters in the scenes containing the Doctor and Daniel; especially the Doctor. His reaction to the revelation about Patrick, who has Susan, is so poetically written and so beautifully performed; and the Doctor’s little speech about how futile it is to commit murder is brilliant. I’ve said it earlier in this review, and I’ll say it again, this is how the First Doctor should always be written.
Susan’s conversation with Patrick about gang violence is really emotional and heartbreaking. Jackson Milner, who plays Patrick, gives a really understated and realistic performance. Susan’s determination to get back to the Doctor, Ian and Barbara is truly admirable, but it also shows how naive she can be as a character; believing she can negotiate the snowstorm on her own.
Ian and Barbara’s plot is one of kindness and humanity; and it really highlights the pairs strong morals for what is right; and how they care about everyone, not just those who are a help to them. You have to admire Ian especially, who is still recovering from being shot, yet is more bothered about saving as many people as he can.
The cliffhanger of The Killer In The Snow is definitely high stakes, and you know that the pair who get themselves into the scrape will find their way out of it (do you seriously think I’d tell you which pair it is?), but I have to admit that the cliffhanger really evokes one of the First Doctor’s era, so I can’t complain.
River of Doom
Who would have thought that the River in River of Doom would be River Song? I seriously didn’t see that coming! (I’m kidding, of course. Or am I?) Seriously though, this episode starts with Ian and Barbara continuing their quest to save as many people as possible from the blizzard; even though Ian manages to avoid death. Again. If I were Mr. Chesterton, I’d be going out and buying a lottery ticket once he get’s back to the TARDIS; luck really is on his side.
It’s not too long before the Doctor and Daniel are reunited with Susan and Patrick, and the Doctor manages to use his eloquence and his compassion to deescalate a rather tense situation, and ultimately utilise the gangs at war for a greater purpose. Helping people. If that’s not who the Doctor is, then I don’t know him at all.
Considering that this has been a rather lighthearted story by Guy Adams standards, I have to admit that I’m surprised, and pleasantly so, when we get the scene that involves domestic abuse. Now, I know you’re probably thinking “Why on earth would anyone be pleasantly surprised about domestic abuse?”, but it’s because it shows once again that Big Finish, their writers and their actors aren’t afraid to address real world issues in their stories. It would have been easy to just make a passing remark about it happening; but for it to actually happen in the story, and for Ian to stand up for what is right. It takes gusto to address issues like this, and I’m so glad that Big Finish can be a platform to address and highlight things like this.
The main theme of River of Doom is easily that, in the darkest of times, humanity will always find a resolve and work together no matter what. When it comes to a crisis, the vast majority of the human race will put aside any prejudices, preconceptions, biases or fears in order to help one another. We’re not perfect as a species; far from it, but occasionally we can work together. And it’s beautiful.
The conclusion to River of Doom, and to The Great White Hurricane as a whole, is bittersweet. It seems to be a Guy Adams trademark now. No matter how light or dark your story, have an ending that, whilst extremely satisfactory, means not everybody gets the happy ending that they deserve.
Overall, The Great White Hurricane is a spectacular story penned by Guy Adams. It’s stories like this, ones that focus more on humanity than any alien threats or fantastical science fiction, that can either be the most hit or miss for me. In this case though, it’s most certainly a hit; and the two hours just flew by. I won’t lie and say I’m the greatest fan of the First Doctor’s era, but this box set of First Doctor Adventures has made me see the original in a whole new light, and I can’t wait for the next volume in July!
Should you want to purchase The First Doctor Adventures: Volume 1, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for a limited time on digital download, and £23 for the CD box set.