Five years ago, Big Finish released a very special Doctor Who box set. We look back on The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, and why it was a story that was long overdue.
Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure is a very special release from Big Finish Productions. It’s one that I’ve listened to several times since it was released five years ago. It’s not just a fantastic celebration of Colin Baker’s Doctor, especially his era on audio. But, as you can likely guess from the title, it also reveals his long-overdue regeneration story, too.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Classic Series, or at least, how Colin’s Doctor was written out of it, you’re probably wondering why he would need a regeneration story. Especially as we saw his Doctor regenerate.
Well, here’s a quick recap: in 1987, Doctor Who‘s twenty-fourth season began with the introduction of the Seventh Doctor. At the very start of Time and the Rani, the Doctor’s TARDIS was attacked and the Sixth Doctor regenerated.
However, there’s just one issue: Colin Baker himself wasn’t involved in this pivotal scene.
The ending we didn’t get
While he was initially invited back for the first serial of the season, Baker declined, asking if he could be given just one more season in full instead. He never heard back from the BBC, and the crucial regeneration scene was done without him.
The scene is as problematic as you’d imagine: not only is there no explanation for why the Doctor has to regenerate while his companion is just unconscious, but it also features newcomer Sylvester McCoy in Colin’s costume and a wig. Overall, it’s a rather disappointing ending for any Doctor.
However, the fact that the story did offer such little explanation for Six’s regeneration actually presented intriguing opportunities for the expanded universe. As such, there have been several different stories that have explored what lead up to Six’s regeneration, including BBC novel Spiral Scratch and the unlicensed novel Time’s Champion.
However, out of all these interpretations, it’s arguably The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure that has the most authenticity. Here are a few reasons why.
The ending we deserved
One thing that The Last Adventure shares in common with Time’s Champion is its primary antagonist: the Valeyard. The manifestation of the Doctor’s darker side, the character had been a major character in Colin’s second season, although he had only been partially explored on-screen. Having him return as the major threat for the Sixth Doctor’s final chronological story made perfect sense.
Even better is that, despite the title, The Last Adventure isn’t just one story for the Sixth Doctor. Instead, it features four stories set across his lifetime, with different companions featured in each episode. Not only does this work at making the Valeyard an even greater threat across Six’s lifetime. But it also gives us a fantastic way of celebrating the Sixth Doctor on audio.
And this is what makes The Last Adventure so special. It’s not just about giving Colin’s Doctor a regeneration story. It’s about celebrating him, as well. Particularly in the realm of audio: after all, three of the four companions featured in this box set were exclusive to Big Finish.
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Legacy – before and after
It’s not surprising that Big Finish wanted to celebrate Six on audio in particular. While his Doctor was enjoyable to watch on TV, Colin Baker truly got the era he deserved thanks to Big Finish, getting so much rich character development across so many stories. It took over fifteen years for Big Finish to convince him to do the regeneration story, but it was definitely worth the wait.
Lastly, the final reason why The Last Adventure is so special is the impact that it made. Not only have many fans enjoyed this special audio story. But some of them have even tried to visualize the crucial final scene of the story. The moment when the Sixth Doctor realized that he’s facing his end. Many of these visualizations have been brilliant.
However, The Confession Dial’s edit definitely stands out. Combining the audio story with some very impressive editing and special effects, it’s perhaps the best visualization we could have for the Sixth Doctor’s final moments and presents us with the send-off that Colin Baker deserved back in 1987.
None of it would have been possible without The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure. Five years on, and it still stands out as a worthy tribute to Colin Baker’s Doctor. A must-listen for every Doctor Who fan.
Have you listened to The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure? What are your thoughts on it? Do you think it gave Colin Baker’s Doctor a strong send-off? Let us know in the comments below.