The Doctor arrives on a mausoleum world for sightseeing and light pedantry, correcting its planetary records. The resident AI has other ideas.
Deep within a tomb, something stirs. Occasus is the last resting place of a species far too dangerous to exist. And the Doctor is its way back.
Planet of the End possibly feels like it is an unusual story for the Ninth Doctor, and it’s certainly a story that feels as though it shows signs of moving this Doctor away from the kind of story that features in his first and only televised series. Having the Doctor stuck in one place is the sort of story you can do towards the end of a Doctor’s run – for instance The Time of the Doctor or Heaven Sent – but it really works here.
Timothy X Atack’s story is certainly a stand out of the boxset and I really liked how unique it felt from the stories that had gone before it. It almost gives the Ninth Doctor a whole new lease of life and Big Finish the licence to do whatever they want with this Doctor before he meets Rose. It feels like this is a nice mix of classic Doctor Who and something a bit new. I like the idea of this graveyard the size of a planet, containing myriad alien races, including the Family of Blood and a squad of Sontarans, who have been there so long that they have been petrified, and the idea that the Doctor would want to visit to indulge in some light pedantry. When I first heard this story, having not known anything about this story going in, I assumed that the Sontarans would have something to do with the wider narrative, but as it stands, they’re just there as a nice reminder of the wider universe around the Doctor. The Incorporation are a powerful foe introduced by Atack, using their knowledge of the universe and the fact that the Doctor is the only Time Lord left as an opportunity to return to dominating universes. Given their knowledge, it is slightly illogical that they would give him the opportunity to make a bargain with them, but it is perhaps a parable against greed. The post-recording work done on the voices of both Hinge, when he is broadcasting his message to planet, and Fred are great too.
People could be suffering, dying. You want me to ignore that?
Unaffiliated life forms on Occasus are automatically in a position of illegality and as of the last several million years, unaffiliated life forms include all known life forms. If they’re dying, that’s for the best.
I was wrong. You’re not an idiot, you’re a heartless coward.The Ninth Doctor and Sacristan Hinge
The Corporation could just become another Doctor Who foe shaping up to be the evil face of capitalism, but they feel different. Perhaps it is because they are fully capable of defeating the Doctor and getting him to the point where he contemplates not regenerating and have obviously studied the Doctor’s modus operandi in ensnaring him on Occasus. The vocal performances of both Jan Francis and Nick Fletcher as the main two members of the Incorporation are both great and threatening, even if the Second Incorporation is just the middle management. Money is so often seen to be the route of all evil in a number of Doctor Who stories, and the Corporation certainly seem to be no different, setting out their intentions at the beginning of the story to stage their revival across the multiverse.
In order to do so, they’ve used their weaponry to freeze intruders in time and feed off their energy to attempt to achieve the restoration of their civilisation. They recognise the Doctor as their key to doing so, and once they have overtaken his body, they plan to use it to essentially monetise him, ending his pro bono services. To achieve their aims, they have paid the head of the security services, Sacristan Hinge, to help their cause.
This story gives Christopher Eccleston a chance to go through a large range of emotions, with the story taking him through the full gamut all the way to be considering death without regeneration. He has certainly done a great job since returning to the role of the Doctor, but this is probably his tour de force performance. The Ninth Doctor gets to show his resilience and stubborness in this story, not willingly giving up his body to the Incorporation, as well as his intelligence and cunning in negotiating the deal to allow him to see the sunset, which ultimately allows his escape. Equally entertaining is the performance of Margaret Clunie as the A.I. on Occasus, which the Doctor names as Fred, and this artificial intelligence gradually gains personality until she eventually gets given the gift of life as she and the Doctor successfully sabotage the Incorporation’s attempt. Fred, as well as being a nice nod to what the Fourth Doctor wanted to call Romana, would have made a good and interesting companion to the Doctor, so it’s a shame she didn’t get the chance to travel with him a little more.
Verdict: Planet of the End is one of the strongest Ninth Doctor Big Finish stories to date and features one of the best performances from Christopher Eccleston. 9/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Margaret Clunie (Fred), Akshay Khanna (Sacristan Hinge), Jan Francis (First Incorporation) & Nick Fletcher (Second Incorporation).
Writer: Timothy X Atack
Director: Helen Goldwyn
Producer: David Richardson
Composer: Howard Carter
- Akshay Khanna also played Riffort in the Doctor Who Unbound story Time Killers.
I’m gonna resist you with every fibre of my being as as it takes because I know what you are. I know what you are! I’ve seen loads of civilisations go through a phase where they look a bit like you, I just didin’t realise how far back it originated.The Ninth Doctor
Previous Ninth Doctor review: Fright Motif
Planet of the End is available to buy from the Big Finish website as part of the boxset Respond to all Calls.
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