|Peter Davison as the 5th Doctor and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa.
In a format departure, the opening release of 2007 sees the 5th Doctor and Nyssa in four one-part adventures instead of one adventure in four parts. While the stories could be heard individually, they all do revolve around a common theme, much as the Big Finish series of Side Trips books have.
The change is such a refreshing one, one wonders why Big Finish have waited so long to test the format in their audio range. Forced to focus their story ideas into 30 minute blocks, writers Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox give us what is the most satisfying release from the Fifth Doctor line since the Big Finish productions began. It may even be the best Big Finish Doctor Who ever.
Like many classic televised stories, the four episode audio format does often lead to padding around the last half of episode three. Those doldrums are neatly avoided here, simply by virtue of the format switch. Yet, Cornell and Maddox somehow seem to avoid the trap of inconsequence. Not only is there much of substance here, but the stories are so relevant that one is awfully tempted to immediately add them to one's idea of personal canon.
Though specifics about the stories will herein be avoided—the effect of the stories would be considerably lessened if spoiled—suffice to say that these are not mere side trips. What happens here matters awfully to the characters of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa.
It's fair to say that you may never view those characters quite the same after listening to "Circular Time". If you're already a fan of the Davison/Sutton audio combo, this only gives you more cause to believe in the correctness of that opinion. If you've never warmed to either the Fifth Doctor or Nyssa, "Circular Time" will, at a minimum, at least make you respect the pairing a hell of a lot more than you might've on television.
Certainly, Davison and Sutton seem to believe that as well. Their performances are vigorous and well-rounded. They've obviously invested themselves wholly in the strength of the material to such a degree that there were times I forgot I was merely listening to them. The guest stars, too, are given meaty roles in which they uniformly revel.
If there be any caveat that I could give to this production it is that new fans of Doctor Who may not quite "get" it. It's not that there are terribly obscure references contained herein. I don't think you need to have a deep knowledge of the JNT era to enjoy it. Nor do you even that you have to like the Fifth Doctor's televised episodes.
Simply put, "Circular Time" is an unalloyed celebration of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. Without a bit of background on how it was, you may have difficulty appreciating this fullest expression of the potential of the pairing.
Rating: For the classic Doctor Who fan, this is amongst the very best things Big Finish have ever done. Buy today. If you're new to Doctor Who, wait until you've seen all the Davison and Sutton DVDs currently available in the UK. But still, it's a must buy.