Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Adventures: Water Worlds
Starring: Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford, Ruth Madley, Rove McManus, and Cherylee Houston
Written by: Jacqueline Rayner, Joshua Pruett, and Jonathan Morris
“Interludes: The Dream Nexus” Written by: Adam Christopher
Directed by: Helen Goldwyn
“Doctor, I’m speechless!” “And yet, you’re still talking.” “That’s about as close as I get.”
A new companion and a host of new and fabulous stories usher in a new phase for Ol’ Sixie and Melanie Bush in Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Adventures: Water Worlds.
Produced by fan-favorite (and personal favorite) Doctor Who scribe Jacqueline Rayner (Doctor Who: The Monthly Adventures & countless more) and edited by Robert Valentine (Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion & Dalek Universe), Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Adventures: Water Worlds serves as a “soft reboot” for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. The Sixth Doctor now has a spin-off of his own specific range with classic companion Mel Bush, played once more with irrepressible charm by Bonnie Langford.
After branching out from the former “Monthly Range,” this new themed triple-feature (plus one bonus story!) truly shines, confidently establishing a new narrative dynamic. Further, this series introduces a brand new, immensely interesting audio-exclusive companion, culminating in another really strong introductory effort from Big Finish Productions! One that doesn’t sacrifice the Big Sixth Doctor Energy fans expect, bringing something new to the table. To put it another way, Water Worlds is a real winner.
Now let’s talk about how precisely it wins and will likely win over a new audience of listeners.
Foundationally, all the scripts and their aquatic theming are really great. The series kicks off with Jac Rayner’s “The Rotting Deep” this box-set establishes it’s going to be a different one very early. The Sixth Doctor and Mel are summoned via a mysterious SOS signal from the TARDIS console to a seemingly derelict oil rig. This oil rig is positioned in the North Sea, where a dwindling band of survivors mistakes our TARDIS team for a rescue crew.
Yet, among them awaits a brand new arrival to the TARDIS. She just doesn’t know it yet. Ruth Madley’s Hebe Harrison, who receives a tremendous backstory and careful, genuine portrayal of her disability (Madley, herself, is a wheelchair user), brings a totally unique energy to the already standout scripts. She has a razor-sharp wit but also a deep reserve of heart and kindness. Harrison is acerbic and quick to indignation but still allows The Doctor and Mel genuine moments of connection and comradery with her. Naturally, she fits right in with the rest of the misfits in this particular TARDIS.
Most importantly, Hebe is portrayed as an actual person. Something both Rayner and Madley stress the importance of in this set’s treasure trove of special features (more on those in a second). Throughout the stories, Hebe is given ample opportunity to express her worldview and constant frustration with non-disabled people. Sometimes, that frustration even extends to The Doctor and Mel.
Granted, this leads to some real tension throughout the stories. Which, to their credit, the writers don’t shy away from! Instead, each story finds clever, character-focused ways to bring these touchstones into the serials. Providing tremendous material for Madley and the rest of the cast to play and making Hebe (and her new connections with The Doctor and “Melly-Mel”) feel all the more interesting, sweet, and wholly original.
Moreover, Water Worlds just feels full. Full of ideas and stellar performances, and wonderful character moments. All hinged around the seemingly endless possibilities of the “aquatic worlds” theme. And if three stories weren’t enough, this new box-set comes loaded with special features. Firstly, you get extended interviews with the producers and cast on every story, providing keen insight into the production process and the genesis of the whole new range. Next, you get an entire bonus story! Part of the new “Interludes” mini-range Big Finish has been supplementing these new sets with. Finally! As if that wasn’t enough! Fans get a copy of the viral “Sixie’s Song.”
In short, all of time and space is a happy place with the Sixth Doctor Who. That seems to count triple in Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Adventures: Water Worlds.