Cold Fusion comes to life for Doctor Who book’s 20th anniversary

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Doctor Who: Cold Fusion (Big Finish Productions)

This December, Big Finish Productions continues its audio adaptations of Virgin’s Missing Adventures and New Adventures with a very special Yuletide gift to longtime fans of the out-of-print Doctor Who books.

Cold Fusion, a tale pairing Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor shortly after his turbulent regeneration with Sylvester McCoy’s scheming and manipulative Seventh Doctor, is based on a 1996 novel of the same name by Lance Parkin — so the full-cast audio adaptation celebrates the 20th anniversary of its publication.

The New Adventures were Virgin’s licensed original continuations of the Seventh Doctor’s travels after Doctor Who left television screens in 1989 (it would return in 2005, six years after Big Finish obtained a license to create original, full-cast audio dramas based on the series). The Missing Adventures were original novels also, but they featured versions of the Doctor played by McCoy’s six predecessors in the role of the itinerant Time Lord known as the Doctor. Cold Fusion was a mashup of the Missing Adventures and New Adventures, though it was marketed and branded as a Missing Adventures entry, due to the Fifth Doctor’s role.

Cold Fusion: Dancing with myself …

In Cold Fusion, the fresh-faced Fifth Doctor arrives on an occupied ice planet where the Seventh Doctor is investigating dangerous energy experiments conducted by the Earth Empire. But as so often happens in Doctor Who, events spiral out of control when a refugee from the distant past arrives: Patience, the Doctor’s wife.

(Yes, I know that River Song is the Doctor’s wife, but this was long before Alex Kingston’s character sauntered into the franchise with her mysterious TARDIS journal after the 2005 TV relaunch, and got a Big Finish series of her own.)

Multi-Doctor stories have always been a rare occasion — even in the world of tie-in novels, which don’t require actors’ schedules to converge and prices to be met. Usually, when they do happen, it’s all the living Doctors, or as close to it as you can get. Big Finish started their Doctor Who license with the three-Doctor tale The Sirens of Time, starring Davison, Colin Baker and McCoy. Cold Fusion is a more intimate and targeted approach, and I can’t wait to finally experience it (I’ve never read the book; just try finding a copy of the book now for a reasonable price.)

What happens when you put Five and Seven together? Let’s just say it’s not a harmonious union, and the Doctor gives new meaning to being conflicted with yourself.

Joining Davison’s Fifth Doctor in Cold Fusion are his initial TARDIS crew of Nyssa of Traken (Sarah Sutton), Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) and Adric of Alzarius (Matthew Waterhouse). McCoy’s Seventh Doctor is accompanied by Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej, 30th-century “Adjudicators” who were created for Virgin’s New Adventures and have appeared previously in Big Finish’s adaptation of New Adventure Damaged Goods, a novel penned by future 2005-10 Doctor Who TV series savior and showrunner Russell T. Davies. Roz is portrayed by Yasmin Bannerman and Chris by Travis Oliver.

Big Finish adventures: Past and future

Doctor Who Spare Parts limited vinyl edition Big Finish Productions
Cover artwork for Spare Parts limited vinyl edition (Big Finish Productions)

Yes, this isn’t the first time Big Finish has mined Virgin territory for material: Other adaptations from the New Adventures line include Paul Cornell’s Love and War, Gareth Roberts’ The Highest Science, Mark Gatiss’ Nightshade, Andy Lane’s All-Consuming Fire (with Sherlock Holmes!) and Justin Richards’ Theatre of War, while Missing Adventures adaptations include The Well-Mannered War, The Romance of Crime and The English Way of Death, all featuring Tom Baker and Lalla Ward as the Fourth Doctor and Romana. And 2000’s The Shadow of the Scourge and 2003’s The Dark Flame weren’t based on a Virgin story, but they were heavily influenced by them and brought novel character Bernice “Benny” Summerfield into the Doctor Who audio adventure fold at Big Finish. (By then, Lisa Bowerman had already played the snarky-ologist character in a series of spin-off audios for Big Finish, before they even had the license for proper Who properties; Benny had had her own Virgin novel series, too, after they stopped making Doctor stories, and many were adapted for audio.)

Big Finish has had the Who license for so long that they’re not just adapting fan-favorite novels, but also re-releasing their own original audio adventures in special collector’s editions. October will see a premium vinyl release of the Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor) Christ-mystery tale The Chimes of Midnight, and April 2017 will bring a vinyl edition of Davison’s Cybermen origin story with Nyssa (Sutton), Spare Parts — which now has its cover artwork finalized, and it’s suitably disturbing.

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