The latest of Big Finish's Eighth Doctor boxed sets, Stranded is set to be another four-box series comprising sixteen linked stories which will play out over the next couple of years. I've let these slip over the last few years; Dark Eyes started very promisingly but carried on too long and lost focus, although it was enjoyable throughout, while Doom Coalition never really engaged for me. I haven't even looked at buying Ravenous, although the write-ups suggest some intriguing ideas.
Stranded, though, intrigued me from the start. Putting the Doctor in a new, self-imposed exile on contemporary Earth is irresistible. Indeed, I'm surprised the television series hasn't tried it for a year to mix things up while saving costs. Expense isn't such an issue for Big Finish - setting a story on Skaro costs the same as setting it in Croydon - but the dramatic potential is promising, and it certainly makes for a new direction for the series. And let's be fair, Doctor Who audios could do with some new and interesting ideas lately. The series features the Doctor living with Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) and Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan), his now stalwart companions, in a converted house in London (amusingly converted to flats after his old companion Thomas Brewster sold it). The TARDIS, meanwhile, is just a police box, sitting on a street corner and turned into makeshift mini-library.
Of course, the Eighth Doctor's been here before, back in the BBC Books "Earth Arc." This is quite a different take on exile for him, though - the books had the Doctor living without his memories, spending over a century on Earth and very much alone. There are similarities, though - the Doctor searching for his old life (which he knew he was missing before, even if he couldn't remember it), feeling increasingly isolated, and occasionally almost crossing paths with other iterations of himself. This time there's no risk of him bumping into the Third Doctor during a previous exile, but the Twelfth Doctor's subsequent self-imposed exile is finishing around now. The Eighth Doctor's life was always marked by a complex timeline where past and future threatened to intercede.
Plus, it's 2020 now, and Big Finish are making a bold and deliberate move of support to the LGBT community by having a new companion who happens to be trans enter the scene, and engage in a same-sex relationship with an existing companion. This is good, important stuff, and I'm pleased we're seeing moves like this now, even though we're not quite there on TV (in spite of the attacks on "wokeness" the series is getting).