WARNING: Significant spoilers ahead
So basically this is “Doctor Who does Beowulf with special guest star Roger from American Dad!” That it does so in a very good, entertaining fashion is kind of a given, seeing as this is something from Big Finish. But it is not without problems.
First, this story, far more than most from Big Finish, really relies on you knowing what’s gone before. You don’t have to have listened to the three prior stories, “Project: Destiny”, “The House of Blue Fire” and “Protect and Survive”, but if you haven’t you’re going to be desperately confused. You’ll have no idea who Sally Morgan (Amy Pemberton) and Lysandra Aristedes (Maggie O’Neill) are, for example (you might not even know who Hex (Phillip Olivier) is, if you haven’t heard any of the audios). You won’t know of their past, or why they matter in the great scheme of things. You won’t know what the Forge is and why it’s important.
Now to be fair, Big Finish does try to explain all these things, and does so in a reasonably comprehensive fashion. By the end of act one, you’ll have at least some idea of who everyone is and what’s going on. But believe me when I say that if you have any intention of listening to this story, listening to the previous three is highly recommended.
But if you have listened to those audios, if you’re all caught up on the 7th Doctor series, you’ll be in for a real treat. This story, with its titular black TARDIS and white TARDIS, really goes into some fascinating places as the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), along with Ace (Sophie Aldred) and his other companions hunt down the Elder Gods. As they do, the story of Beowulf unfolds around them, complete with the man himself and an alien named Garundel , voiced by Stuart Milligan, who played Nixon in the new Who TV episodes, “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”.
It was really good to have the characters of Lysandra and Sally back again. Sally I especially liked in “The House of Blue Fire”. Lysandra was a bit less interesting, but I found her character a little “meh” in “Project: Destiny” as well.
I also really liked the idea that the Doctor was living a double life; traveling in two different TARDISes with two different crews. I really liked that he was basically using one crew as cannon-fodder to protect the other. I’m also quite keen to find out exactly who that was he was talking with at the end of the story. My personal speculation is either Fenric (due to the chess motif), or perhaps the Toymaker. Either one would be interesting.
The story is not without its drawbacks. Like I said, if you’ve not heard what came before you may well be lost at sea. Also, while I liked Garundel, a little of him goes a very, very long way, and his character seemed to be very inconsistent for little reason.
Those complaints aside, I do recommend this audio, and if you haven’t heard the stories that came before, I recommend getting them. They’re all very good and will only increase your enjoyment of this one.