Doctor Who – “Landbound”

Doctor Who: Short Trips
Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips Opportunity 2017
Written by: Selim Ulug
Directed by: Neil Gardner
Performed by: Nicholas Briggs
Duration: 37 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-79703-528-7
Chronology Placement: Set after “The Silurians

Synopsis: He was the captain of a ship once. Since being stripped of his authority, he is lost. Landbound. Then he meets a kindred spirit, a man who has also lost something. In a small seaside town, both Ronald Henderson and the Doctor want to move forward, but one of them must first come to terms with his past…

As a memorial and tribute to their colleague Paul Spragg, Big Finish holds a competition each year for new writers to pitch ideas for a Short Trips story – roughly half hour in length. Winning scripts are developed with Big Finish and eventually produced as a free audio release to commemorate Paul Spragg’s life. The first release, “Forever Fallen” came out in December 2016 but it was the second release, “Landbound” which came out in December 2017 which caught my eye as it focused on one of my favourite eras – The Third Doctor in Exile.

Offered as a free download and written by a competition winner, it might be easy for some to assume that “Landbound” would be a sub-par release from Big Finish, but having listened to the episode, I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The company’s familiar high-end production values are present throughout, and the story itself is expertly written by Selim Ulug, drawing parallels between a landlocked sailor and the Third Doctor’s own exile on Earth.

Halfway between a short story and an audio-drama, the Short Trips format allows for more intimate and introspective stories about the Doctor and his companions. The Third Doctor, known for his bluster and flamboyance on the screen, is placed under the microscope by Ulug in this superb character-driven piece. Straight on the heels of the explosive climax to “The Silurians”, we see an irate Doctor angry at his exile, his “superiors” and the humans he finds himself surrounded by. Ulug’s story addresses the Third Doctor’s fractious relationship with UNIT and adds context behind his decisions to remain in place as their scientific adviser.

Nicholas Briggs does a tremendous job at the narrator of this tale, effortlessly slipping between the voices of the cast. I was utterly in awe at how much he disguised his voice when adopting the role of Henderson and the other cast members. The real highlight is his interpretation of the Third Doctor – while it isn’t a direct imitation of Jon Pertwee – it carries enough of the actor’s vocal mannerisms to capture the character. I was also overwhelmed by the level of emotion that Briggs brought to the character of Henderson, again surpassing all expectations of what a “free download” should be.

While there is little action on display in this adventure, it should still appeal to fans of the Third Doctor’s era as he does manage a smidgen of Venusian Aikido. I really enjoyed the change of pace to other Big Finish adventures as Selim Ulug explored a calmer, more reflective side of the Third Doctor. It is a marvellous companion piece to the televised stories of that time, and a fascinating character study into the “land-locked Doctor”. As my first exposure to the Short Trips format, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction and I have already downloaded the inaugural Paul Spragg Short Trips Opportunity adventure “Forever Fallen” for my next listen. I cannot recommend “Landbound” enough – it’s a fantastic character-driven short story and an absolute steal as a free download. There really is no excuse to not give this a listen!

Score – ★★★★ ½

Doctor Who: Landbound is available direct from Big Finish as a free digital download.

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