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When Big Finish confirmed they had the new series license, one of the first audio box sets they announced was Classic Doctors, New Monsters: a set of audio dramas that team up the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors with a monster from the new series of Doctor Who. For the fifth Doctor, Big Finish Productions opted for arguably the most iconic of the new series' creations: the Weeping Angels. A strange choice for audio given that they are silent creatures...
Fallen Angels sees honeymooning couple Joel (Sacha Dhawan) and Gabby Finch (Diane Morgan) visit the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where they meet the Doctor (Peter Davison) and a Weeping Angel that sends the pair back in time to 1511 Rome. Gabby encounters the Doctor again, only he can't remember meeting her as it hasn't happened for him yet. Joel meanwhile finds himself in the workshop of Michelangelo (Matthew Kelly) who has been commissioned by the priest to carve an Angel free.
What's brilliant about this story is how Big Finish have decided to make the plot as timey wimey as possible. To me the quintessential Weeping Angel story given their ability to send people back in time is one that uses time travel almost as a character in its own right rather than just as a means to get the Doctor and characters from A to B. Everything you would expect from a time travel Doctor Who story with the Weeping Angels is there: the Doctor meeting people out of order, previous supporting characters returning as old men having lived a long life after being sent to the past by a Weeping Angel, jokes about future inventions that are accidentally invented in the past (in this case, sandwiches - although the Doctor claims he invented them first). Writer Phil Mulryne understands exactly what makes a Weeping Angel story work and you can see why Big Finish opted to hire him for this story.
I know any Doctor Who fans on here who haven't listened to this will be asking if the Weeping Angels work on audio. Well, it does take a while for the audio story to work out exactly how to use them effectively without the need of visual aid but by the final act you forget any notion that the Weeping Angels might not work in an audio drama. Sounds of the Weeping Angel's movements from the TV Series are used extremely well and act as good indicators of what would be occurring on-screen without the need of endless exposition. In fact, there's hardly any exposition to speak of here. The geniuses at Big Finish don't need it. The most expositional dialogue is along the lines of 'It's pointing at me'; the rest only requires you to listen.
One thing other than the Weeping Angels that this story takes from the new series is the 'celebrity historical', where the Doctor and 'companions' (or in this case, the honeymooning couple) meet a historical celebrity from the past whom the Doctor happens to be a fan of. Only in this case it's Joel who is the fanboy. This is a good decision by Big Finish and Phil Mulryne as it makes it feel like a new series story told with a classic series Doctor (exactly what these box sets should be about). Matthew Kelly does such a good job at portraying Michelangelo too. He's a real coup for Big Finish and probably one of their best supporting actors so far. Disappointingly none of the characters get to say 'Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be....'
The main problem with this story comes from the writing's portrayal of the fifth Doctor. For some reason Peter Davison's Doctor here appears more like Matt Smith's eleventh. It feels odd hearing Peter Davison as the Doctor making blokey jokes about data roaming and I would have preferred to have heard a characterisation more faithful to the classic series interpretation of his Doctor (such as in the excellent Mutant Phase). Bar the final line that cheekily hints at the 10th and 11th Doctor's use of the phrase 'timey wimey', Fallen Angels is a story where you could easily swap the fifth Doctor for the eleventh and it would work much better. Especially when the main supporting characters of this release are extremely similar to a certain other husband and wife duo.
I'm talking, of course, about Amy and Rory. Joel and Gabby bare a few similarities to the 11th Doctor's popular companion duo. Both are extremely loyal, have an ever-lasting love and affection for one another and will do whatever it takes to stay together. Joel, like Rory, is the awkward one of the pair (although to be fair his love of art and culture means he acts significantly different after the initial shock than Rory would around Michelangelo) whilst Gabby has the childlike innocence that Amy would often possess in the latter's fairytale-esque wonder and idolisation of the Doctor. Just like Amy and Rory their affection for one another is a big part of who their characters are. It's a shame that this story couldn't have been kept back for a potential future 11th Doctor full cast audio drama release as it doesn't feel much like a fifth Doctor story.
Overall, Fallen Angels is an excellent first instalment in the Classic Doctors, New Monsters series but unfortunately suffers from poor characterisation of the fifth Doctor and supporting characters who feel incredibly similar to Amy and Rory. The Weeping Angels are surprisingly effective on audio however and the decision to make the first Big Finish Weeping Angel story a timey wimey one is a strong one. Even if it doesn't feel like a Peter Davison story, thanks to the celebrity historical aspect it does feel like a new series story told with a classic series Doctor. Matthew Kelly is perfect as Michelangelo and it would be nice to hear him return to Big Finish again. Fallen Angels may not be the strongest fifth Doctor release but it does prove that the Weeping Angels absolutely can work on audio.