For those unaware, Big Finish Productions have been making Doctor Who audio dramas since 1999, featuring a myriad of Doctors, companions and monsters. If there’s a particular niche of Doctor Who expanded media you’re interested in seeing – or rather, listening to – Big Finish is the place to go. This makes their inclusion in the multi-platform event Time Lord Victorious both inevitable and brilliant, opening up the floor for actors from the TV series to reprise their roles in new stories. In this case, the Eighth Doctor’s adventures in the Time Lord Victorious saga conclude in Mutually Assured Destruction.
Set after the events of All Flesh is Grass, the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) is trapped aboard the Daleks’ spaceship, with both parties attempting to escape the Dark Times once and for all. As the Daleks squabble for power, the Doctor desperately searches for his TARDIS…
If you haven’t read All Flesh is Grass (the second Time Lord Victorious novel by Una McCormack), it is undoubtedly required reading in order to understand this adventure – which feels like a slightly odd decision given that 2/3 of this Eighth Doctor trilogy have been standalone stories, acting as prequels to the main event. Because of this approach though, so many key story beats occur in the preceding novel that Mutually Assured Destruction doesn’t really have much to work with, simply revolving around the Eighth Doctor’s escape, and as such it’s difficult not to get the sense that the majority of this audio adventure is simply padding – stretching out the hour until the Doctor can reach the TARDIS and leave. Two new characters – Tiska (Samantha Béart) and Groth (Wilf Scolding) – are thrown into the mix, but only around half-way through the tale, resulting in them coming across as quite generic supporting players, only serving to help the Doctor explain what’s happening.
Writer Lizzie Hopley does her best with the material, and there are a fair few interesting ideas and moments sprinkled throughout, but the story is so thin that it starts to drag at even an hour long. It could be argued that the Eighth Doctor’s story should have concluded in All Flesh is Grass, along with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’. It may have meant that this Big Finish trilogy wouldn’t have had a definitive ending, but when so much of the pay-off occurs in that second novel anyway, Mutually Assured Destruction is hardly a satisfying finale – more of an overlong epilogue. It’s not a crucial part of the Time Lord Victorious saga, and it’s definitely not as good as either He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not or The Enemy of My Enemy, which makes it feel almost redundant.
Having said that, this is still a polished production from Big Finish. The sound design by Peter Doggart is excellent, the score by Ioan Morris is very atmospheric, and Lee Binding‘s cover art makes for a must-own CD release. Paul McGann is as good as always in the lead role, even if he seems a bit too chirpy considering everything he’s just been through in the over-arching story, while Nicholas Briggs has a lot of fun voicing the various members of the Dalek Time Squad. The main issue with Mutually Assured Destruction is ultimately that it doesn’t have much to offer – either as a standalone adventure or an instalment in the Time Lord Victorious saga.