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Good but flawed re-introduction for the Eighth Doctor
on 11 April 2006
"October, 1930. His Majesty's Airship, the R101, sets off on her maiden voyage to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Empire, carrying the brightest lights of the Imperial fleet. Carrying the hopes and dreams of a breathless nation.
"Not to mention a ruthless spy with a top-secret mission, a mysterious passenger who appears nowhere on the crew list, a would-be adventuress destined for the Singapore Hilton... and a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.
"There's a storm coming. There's something unspeakable, something with wings, crawling across the stern. Thousands of feet high in the blackening sky, the crew of the R101 brace themselves. When the storm breaks, their lives won't be all that's at stake...
"The future of the galaxy will be hanging by a thread."
Alan Barnes' Storm Warning is the first of the Big Finish Audio series to feature the Eighth Doctor, played impeccably by Paul McGann. The story begins with a brief teaser scene, during which the lone Time Lord finds himself in a situation of some peril, before catapulting into the main story with an energetic new version of the Doctor Who theme tune.
The airship of Storm Warning is populated by a variety of characters including companion-to-be Charley Pollard, played by India Fisher, and the very British Lord Tamworth, played with a Colin Baker-esque inonation by Gareth Thomas. Also on board is the British intelligence agent Rathbone, played with a very peculiar accent by Barnaby Edwards, and his mysterious passenger voiced by Helen Goldwyn. As ever with the Big Finish series, the voice performances are good, particularly the excellent Paul McGann. Helen Goldwyn's voice is distorted in a variety of ways over the course of the story to represent different facets of the Triskele; this is less successful, and becomes somewhat irritating after a while.
The setting of the story, however, is intriguing, with the ensemble cast confined to the interior of the Edwardian airship, which incidentally has very good sound design. Unfortunately, the plot changes direction during episode three, and the script and the story in general sag very badly around that point. The story redeemed itself somewhat in the highly enjoyable fourth episode, which incorporates enough twists and turns to keep the story involving (even including a fight scene, surely a challenge given the audio medium), but one is left with the slightly bitter feeling caused by the weak third episode and an excess of exposition. The final minutes of the story leave the series open for an ongoing story arc, and it remains to be seen how well this will be followed up.
Overall, an intriguing first entry into the Eighth Doctor series of Big Finish Audio adventures, even if I'm not without my criticisms, and I look forward to hearing more.