God bless Big Finish - from the 1996 tv movie to the 2005 BBC series, they carried the torch for the series, giving us 5th/6th/7th Doctor adventures that were risky, playing with continuity, but also providing something of a mixed bag. In 2004, Big Finish released their "Unbound" series - basically, these audios were like Marvel's What If? series, giving us alternative views of the Doctor should his life/lives had taken alternative turns.
(NOTE: I know there are more than what I'm reviewing - however, I have no interest in Auld Mortality, and I'm having a hell of a time tracking down Full Fathom Five. So, with that, away-y-y we go...)
Sympathy for the Devil is a corker - a great story that is "based" on an old Third Doctor story. The premise is simple - what if, after The War Games, the Doctor showed up on earth after the UNIT adventures? The answer, suprisingly...well, that would be telling. However, we're also given an alternative Third Doctor - David Warner, fills the role extremely well, and his chemistry with Nicholas Courtney is remarkable. (I loved this story's "take" on the Brigadier - a bitter, cynical old soldier). As a result of this story, I would love to hear a series of stories featuring Sam Kisgart (aka Mark Gatiss) as the Master. Definitely worth your money.
However, I would hold off on He Jests At Scars - it's not a bad story, per se. It's a "What if the Valeyard won at the end of The Ultimate Foe?" Michael Jayston does a good job, but if you enjoy 60 plus minutes of
- "If-we-do-this-this-temporal-anomaly-will-happen" dialogue;
- More continuity references than your average DC Comic; and
- A bitter, cynical Mel Bush;
File under instant classic: Deadline, Rob Shearman's drama about "what if Doctor Who never made it outside the pilot stage?" It's a taut drama with a strong performance from Sir Derek Jacobi as a once-prominent writer dealing with attempting to reach out to others. The overall effect is as if Rod Serling and Charles Beaumont did a DW-themed episode for The Twilight Zone, and this story takes full advantage of the audio medium, blending fantasy, reality, and possible delirium into a pretty heady mix. Taut writing, great sound mix, definitely recommended.
Finally, avoid Exile at all costs. It should have been a clever story - "what if the Doctor escaped the Time Lords and was a woman?"...but this story way misses the mark. If you like an alcoholic Doctor, sounds of projective vomiting, and humor that resembles a straight-laced attempt at Monty Python/Douglas Adams-esque writing, this is for you. However, I wouldn't go out of my way to download this story illegally. Worthless.
So, two knock-em-out-of-the-ballparks, one iffy, and one stinker. Not bad, Big Finish.