It’s time for something new in the Short Trips range, with us foraying into the worlds of New Who. This has, of course, been done once (or twice) before, in the brilliant Jago & Litefoot Revival Act One and Act Two. But this time, we’re going to that parallel world where the Tyler family now resides with the Metacrisis Doctor in two new Short Trips. The Siege of Big Ben, which I will be reviewing today, and Flight Into Hull! due out in August.
The question is, will The Siege of Big Ben have my ringing endorsement, or should it be silenced for renovations? (Yes, I know that Big Ben is the tower and not the bell.)
Jackie Tyler has everything she’s ever wanted: a loving husband and, two children. But a terrible, far-reaching plan is underway, and only Jackie and a single friend stand in the way of it.
But the Doctor isn’t the man he was…
Tony is now four years old, and he’s already acting like a grumpy teenager… and coming up with a business plan. He clearly takes after his dad. The pre-titles to this Short Trip is absolutely brilliant, with Jackie being her normal Jackie-like self, and telling her friend Beryl about how she saved the world. Within the opening two minutes, there’s so much humour in Joseph Lidster’s script, and Camille Coduri’s performance is still spot on all these years later. I could listen to Jackie for hours and never get bored.
Jackie’s trying her best to stop Beryl from talking, so she can tell her story of how she saved the world. We get a bit of an exposition dump as to what’s been going on in the parallel world, with President Harriet Jones merging Torchwood, the Preachers and UNIT into one huge organisation. (I sense a Big Finish parallel universe spin off with Jack, Ianto, Malcolm, Osgood, Jackie, Rose, Pete and Harriet Jones.) Then we’re into the meat of the story.
We learn about Jackie’s job in UNIT, and it’s a hell of a whopper. She’s the head. Of food distribution. There’s even a quick reference to her adventure in The Ninth Doctor Chronicles box set, Retail Therapy. There’s a lovely little reference to some Ice Warrior activity in the arctic.
It’s not too long in the flashback until the danger sets in for Jackie whilst she’s at work. Her workplace is under attack, and there’s only two people in Big Ben, their base of operations. Jackie Tyler and the Doctor. Of course, the Doctor is in his element.
I love the parallels between the Metacrisis Doctor working for UNIT and the Third Doctor working for UNIT. Both working in secret and trying to grow a new TARDIS.
Once we learn more about the alien invasion, we get to experience how this version of the Doctor is different from our universes incarnations of the Time Lord. Things are different; this Metacrisis Doctor is more human. Much more human. That can be both a blessing and a curse.
The idea that Jackie is ultimately the most Doctor-like person in this release, by strangely being the most human, is a brilliant idea. Lidster’s script is on top form, and I only wish it was longer. This is one of the shortest Short Trips to date, at 29 minutes, and another 5 or 10 minutes would have been appreciated.
At it’s core, The Siege of Big Ben is a really straightforward story of change and loss, whilst reintroducing us to Pete’s World. I said at the beginning of the review, but Coduri’s narration in this, and every other Big Finish release she’s been a part of, is absolutely out of this world, and her voice acting draws you in so you hang on every word. Considering that this release is only £2.99, I can’t recommend you listen to this story enough. Especially considering it sounds like Flight Into Hull! will be a sequel to this tale.
Should you want to purchase The Siege of Big Ben, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £2.99 on download.