5 out of 5 found this review helpful.
The Sirens of Time is a difficult story to review, for a number of reasons. It's not just because it's Big Finish's very first Doctor Who audio, but also because there's a fair number of issues here. The plot is rather uneven, especially as each story jumps around with different settings, times and characters. Some of the individual vinaigrette's are quite decent, but I don't think they quite come together properly.
Each of the three Doctors gets an episode to themselves, before joining forces in the final episode. Out of the three, the Fifth Doctor gets the best story, with a neat, self-contained little section regarding the Doctor getting captured aboard a German U-Boat (there are definitely some Das Boot touches to this section). However, the over-arching narrative hangs rather loosely over the episodes, and ending each segment on an unresolved cliffhanger is probably a mistake. The Seventh Doctor's episode is easily the weakest: not a lot happens, and some of the characters are far too arch to be interesting. The Sixth Doctor's episode is decent, but it ends up basically folded into the main plot towards the end, so it's hard to count it on it's own terms. The final episode is decent, but basically ends up becoming a dumping ground for plot and exposition, and the multi-Doctor interaction (what the story is being sold on really) feels flat as a result.
It's nice to hear Peter, Colin and Sylvester back on audio, despite the weak plotting. Sylvester can't quite get a grasp on the material, however, and, while some lines are fine, others fall flat. Both Peter and Colin, however, are exemplary, and manage to help lift their own episodes. Sarah Mowat is also very convincing as the four different 'companion' characters, making each one distinct and different in their own right. Mark Gatiss also gives a very subtle performance as the U-Boat Captain in episode 2, and his scenes with Peter Davison are a joy. The rest of the cast are pretty decent, especially as most are playing multiple roles. I have to be honest, however, and say that Maggie Stables' performance was pretty terrible. The cod German accent that she puts on is at odds with the material, and it just means the character doesn't convince.
The soundscapes, while fairly crude by modern Big Finish standards, are still pretty good. Some of the effects, such as the spaceship crashes in episode 1, don't quite work, and so it's hard to discern what is going on at points. However, it is fairly impressive for 1999, and most of it still works today. Briggs' work on episode 2, in particular, brings the whole story to life wonderfully.
Overall, The Sirens of Time is an average first audio for Big Finish. There's a lot that doesn't quite work, but also there is plenty of potential for the future. It's a bit of a mixed bag overall, but there is lots of individual elements that work well, and would be developed in future.