Billed as the longest running Doctor Who fan series DWAD has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings.
Their “longest running” claim is not just a boast by the way, this mixture of amateur and professional performers dates back to “the before time”, and to date has produced approximately 200 multi-part productions, seen multiple actors play the doctor, and is still producing new adventures.
This group had some very humble beginnings, with at times no more than 2 people playing all the parts. Their very early stories (some which are not available) sound like little more than two guys, a Star Trek soundtrack and a tape recorder.
Today they regularly release full format dramas with many cast members, a beautiful sound mix and (usually) more than adequate sound effects.
It’s probably best to say that this version of the doctor is in an alternate universe from the regular series. There are events here that take place that could contradict the current show at times and vice-versa. There are also recurring goodies and baddies that, again, would fit right at home in a Star Trek universe. Can you tell which other sci-fi show is a heavy inspiration? Still, it’s more Doctor Who than anything, and it’s only one storyline revisited here and there, so even if you’re not a big ST fan, as a listener you’ll really come to enjoy revisiting those characters and seeing how they progress.
The troop has at times entertained outside submissions and/or collaborations. Indeed, you will find some of these stories on other production groups’ webpages. Expect diversity by a company with this many stories under its belt. Some are great, some are not-so-great, and some just weren’t ready for release. Some will be right up your alley, and some will not be your cup of tea. When they’re on-form, though, they can draw you in as much as any professional production.
The lesser-quality productions usually fall down due to the same recurring problems. DWAD productions can often falter from excessive exposition (usually thrown at you all at once), excessive dialog where action and sound should have taken place, and an underestimation of the audience’s ability to understand what is going on. There are also often pacing issues. Entire episodes pass where nothing relevant happens, no plot point is furthered and no characters are developed. They also need to learn to rethink and avoid those scenes where a character talks us through their actions. Some stories are plagued with way too much dialog, especially (and yet somewhat forgivably) the early ones.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer the opposite side of the coin. Where they excel is in their characterizations, their scene building and their emotional draw. The companions (and the Doctors themselves for that matter) have all been very different and brought something different to the table every time. They have a great ability to describe a scene in depth, so that it’s easy for the listener to visualize exactly what is around. A snowy evergreen forest comes alive with smells, sounds and… zombies.
A cliffside walk to a castle is ominous indeed. When the characters develop feelings for one another, or are freezing to death, or are betrayed, or break down, you understand it and can empathize.
Finally, out of desire or necessity, they’re not afraid to try new directions. There’s a stretch, for instance, with a character (remember this is audio) who doesn’t talk at all! Whether you agree that it works or not, it’s truly a gutsy move.
I’ll finish by saying that the later stories tend to have a bit more philosophical depth than some of the earlier productions. You’ll often walk away thinking you haven’t heard all that went on around the characters. This is as it should be. The stories frequently present something to postulate and ponder. Yet like an RTD story, they often cram the issue down your throat, thus suffocating the production. Their most recent efforts have had both a philosophical and meta side that sometimes interfere with simply telling a good story. After all, we’re here for adventure and drama, not lecture and debate. Truthfully, I understand it’s all another part of their willingness to explore new terrain in storytelling, and that’s simply wonderful. However one wishes for a showrunner that would reign such things in when they go too far.
What I’ll send you away with is the idea that when these guys are on, they are indeed better than some of the television episodes you’ve seen. When they’re off, it’s disappointing, but rarely offensive. There are some stories you will simply love and not only return to often, but think about when you’re doing other things. I always look forward to a new DWAD in the hopes that it will match some of their most memorable ones, because theirs are moments that will indeed be with you for quite some time.
As of this posting, DWAD is currently featuring Matthew Chambers as the doctor, and Helen Roka as Georgi. Currently in release is the story Wrath of the Zylons.
More DWAD goodness can be found at: https://dwad.net/
Positives: A veritable recreation of the movie in audio form.
Negatives: Follows the movie too closely. Why make your own version of something if you’re not going to introduce new insight? Those of you unfamiliar with the movie will be totally lost about some aspects. Mixing issues. Not updating the music. By far, not their best production.
Verdict: Skip. Get an audio only version of the movie and listen to that instead. Those of you who are familiar with Logan’s Run (shame if you’re not), can upgrade this to a “meh!”.
Big Finish – Doctor Who – The First Doctor Adventures (Vol. 1) – If you love the first doctor, you’ll love this.
Big Finish – Sarah Jane Smith: The Complete Series 1-2 – Really good till you find out what’s behind it all, then it rocks!
13 Minutes to the Moon Podcast: Season 1 – Anniversary docuseries
Eaten By A Grue: Infocom Text Adventures Podcast – Geeking out over text adventures
The Haunting of Hill House
Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
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