Storm Warning was the sixteenth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Alan Barnes and featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and introduced India Fisher as the new companion Charlotte Pollard.
Released in January 2001, this was the first audio story to feature Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, his first time reprising the role in a full cast story since the 1996 television movie, which was his first on-screen appearance as the Doctor.
October, 1930. His Majesty's Airship, the R101, sets off on her maiden voyage to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Empire, carrying the brightest lights of the Imperial fleet. Carrying the hopes and dreams of a breathless nation.
Not to mention a ruthless spy with a top-secret mission, a mysterious passenger who appears nowhere on the crew list, a would-be adventuress destined for the Singapore Hilton... and a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.
There's a storm coming. There's something unspeakable — something with wings, crawling across the stern. Thousands of feet high in the blackening sky, the crew of the R101 brace themselves. When the storm breaks, their lives won't be all that's at stake...
The future of the galaxy will be hanging by a thread.
The Eighth Doctor sifts through the bookshelves in his TARDIS control room looking for the TARDIS manual, noting that all the shelves are in complete disarray. The TARDIS suddenly stops mid-flight in the vortex. The Doctor turns on the scanner to discover a time ship trapped crashing in a space/time glitch. A pack of Vortisaurs swarm the ship to pick at the debris and the Doctor flies the TARDIS at them to send them away. He then tries to use the TARDIS to knock the ship out of the glitch it's caught in, but misses the mark and loses control. The Vortisaurs swarm at the TARDIS and its defenses begin to fail; before the Doctor has time to do anything, a Vortisaur breaches the dimensional shielding.
Elsewhere, the announcement of the airship R101 is being broadcast. Aboard the recently launched aircraft, the ship's designer, Frayling, approaches Lord Tamworth in privacy about the fact that the airship didn't complete its trials and the extra weight Tamworth demanded for the mission, as well as questioning him about the details of the venture, but he merely brushes off Frayling's suspicions. Tamworth calls over Rathbone and requests he tend to the passenger in Cabin 43. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor notices the Vortisaurs swarming again, and attempts a risky emergency landing to get away from them.
Aboard the airship, a young girl, Charlotte Pollard, is tending to writing her memoirs when the Chief Steward Weeks comes to her cabin, expecting her to be someone that Charley had stowed away in place of. Charley disguises herself and plays along. The TARDIS lands somewhere else on the airship, and the Doctor leaves to investigate his surrounding. Above him, Frayling has noticed the extra weight of the TARDIS in the ballast tank and orders it emptied. The Doctor emerges from the ballast tank and the hatch slams shut behind him. The ballast tank is then emptied, ejecting the TARDIS in the process. Frayling informs Tamworth of a storm approaching, and he reveals more details of the mission. As Charley enters the room, disguised as the steward, the airship is hit by something. Charley spills a drink on Tamworth and accidentally gives herself away.
Charley stamps on Tamworth's foot and runs, while he sends Weeks after her. The Doctor explores the airship and hears a slight moaning from Cabin 43. Pulling a stetoscope from his pocket, he listens to Rathbone talking to someone. When he rounds the corner, he runs into Charley and helps her to hide. After Tamworth has gone, Charley is humoured by the Doctor eccentricities and seemingly absurd experiences. Frayling tries to convince Tamworth of something outside the airship in the storm, but Tamworth puts it down to him being intoxicated. Charley tells the Doctor about the venture, and he deduces that they are on the R101 in October 1930, the night before the airship is due to crash and burn over France, but Charley thinks the Doctor isn't being serious. In Cabin 43, Rathbone is still attending the mysterious passenger, when he alerted by a noise outside. Suddenly, a Vortisaur breaks through the window and wraps its jaws around Rathbone's arm.
The Doctor and Charley hear the screams and go to help. Rathbone tries to get the Vortisaur to release him, to no avail. The Doctor, along with Charley and Weeks, break into the Cabin and the Doctor throws hot coffee on it to get it to release him. The Doctor and Charley spot the passenger and Rathbone points his gun at him. He sends the Doctor and Weeks to deal with the Vortisaur and demands Charley stays behind with the passenger. After the Doctor and Weeks break a window to lure the Vortisaur, Frayling becomes certain that the ship can't survive these conditions and demands Tamworth abort the flight, but he threatens him with arrest. The Doctor coaxes the Vortisaur with his blood and has Weeks secure it once it's sedate; afterwards, they go to see Tamworth.
Charley tries to connect with Rathbone, but he continues to torment and threaten her and she rebuffs him. The Doctor approaches Tamworth and questions Frayling about the construction of the airship. Tamworth questions the Doctor about being a spy for the Zeppelin company, thinking him to be German. The Doctor manages to get Tamworth to open up about details of the mission and asks him about the passenger in Cabin 43. Tamworth allows the Doctor to examine the passenger and orders Frayling to raise the airship's altitude beyond what it was designed to manage. They proceed to the Cabin.
The Doctor brings Charley in on his plan and examine Rathbone's injury, before turning his attention to the passenger. Charley gets strange feelings off the creature, as does Tamworth. The Doctor turns off the gases to the passengers helmet and removes his helmet, revealing them to be an alien. Charley is amazed by the creatures appearance and notes its temperature. The alien passenger awakens and speaks to Charley. Unexpectedly, the airship altitude signal goes off, alarming the alien. Tamworth tells them that the rendezvous has been met and tells the Doctor and Charley to bring the alien. Rathbone is angry about the fact, but Tamworth threatens him back into submission.
Tamworth addresses the crew about upcoming unusual events, and has the Doctor and Charley bring the alien into the room before the crew. Suddenly, a large spaceship flies over the R101 and the alien tells them that '[they]' have arrived.
Frayling is astonished by the scale of the spaceship and the appearance of the alien. Charley asks the alien about its origin. The alien introduces itself as Engineer Prime of the Triskele, having been made better by its proximity to more of its race. She cannot get traces of the minds of the Doctor and most of the crew, but does reveal Rathbone's also being a spy. Charley is amazed by the idea of there being millions of planets out in the universe and realises that the Doctor had been telling the truth about having a time and space machine; she tells the Doctor about her plan to go to Singapore to meet a man which influenced into stowing away on the airship. The Triskele opens the ship and the R101 is piloted aboard.
Tamworth declares his intention to have a diplomatic party disembark, but Engineer Prime states that only three will disembark; Tamworth, Frayling and the Doctor. Before leaving the airship, the Doctor warns Charley to be weary of Rathbone. Engineer Prime takes the Doctor, Tamworth and Frayling to the Triskele ship. Aboard the craft, the Doctor notices the ship has had a special mooring for the R101, while Tamworth and Frayling are impressed by the scale of the ship. Engineer Prime and Tamworth explain that their races got in contact when Tamworth located the Engineers crashed craft and spent months trying to get through to her, to no avail. The pair only got in contact when Rathbone got in contact and got a woman to get the Engineer to speak. Engineer Prime explained the only one she had spoken to before were Uncreators. Tamworth then reveals he added to modifications to the R101's specifications to make the meeting with the Triskele ship. The Doctor is impressed by Tamworth's tenacity.
Back on the airship, Rathbone has Weeks and other member of the crew place large crates of weaponry in the main hall and Charley deduces that he is planning something. The Doctor's party finally reaches the main section of the ship, finding proof that the Triskele had been to Earth previously. Engineer Prime brings the Doctor, Tamworth and Frayling before the Engineer Triskele by moving the deck of the ship around the inhabitants. The Doctor asks about the other subspecies of the Triskele, the Uncreators, which also appear in the same room. The Uncreator Prime questions Tamworth about his military history and explains the purpose of the Uncreators, the dark, destructive side of the species, feared by the Engineers. When Tamworth states he feels remorse for the casualties of the war, the Uncreator Prime feels cheated and scavenges Engineer Prime's mind, looking for another candidate, learning of Rathbone.
Rathbone hears the Uncreators in his head aboard the airship, but is interrupted by Charley's arrival. He begins to get paranoid about the Doctor's party and prepares to act. The third part of the Triskele triad appears before the Doctor, the Lawgiver. The Engineers are the brains of the triad, the Uncreators are the instinct, while the Lawgiver governs to the subspecies with his law. While the Engineers and Uncreators regularly change and progress, the Lawgiver remains the same. The Uncreators wish the Lawgiver dead, wanting merely death and destruction. The other subspecies of the Triskele cannot act without the consent of the Lawgiver. The Doctor deduces that the Triskele have summoned them not just for diplomacy with humanity, but to find a replacement for the Lawgiver, who is on the verge of death.
Rathbone considers time up and orders the crew to arm themselves, ready to storm the Triskele ship. He hands Weeks a rifle to direct the diplomatic members of the crew elsewhere with orders to shoot Charley if she doesn't comply with his orders. Charley still wants to know his intention; Rathbone wants a reward for bringing Engineer Prime back to them, the Triskele become part of the British Empire. However, Tamworth hasn't returned in the predicted time and so he plans to seize the ship for the empire, personally. The Lawgiver informs the Doctor that as soon as he dies, the Uncreators will be released to wreak havoc, while the Doctor deduces that that they want him to replace the Lawgiver, as neither an Engineer nor Uncreator can do it and the Doctor is not of Earth. Uncreator Prime, however, dismisses the Doctor's nomination as neither he nor Tamworth serves as a symbol of an Uncreator. He then detects Rathbone aboard the ship and Tamworth tries to retreat himself, Frayling and the Doctor to the R101. Rathbone is brought before the Triskele and the Uncreator Prime was impressed with his nature. Rathbone shoots at Charley, further impressing the Uncreators. Rathbone tries to threaten the Lawgiver into compliance, but, when this fails, he shoots and kills the Lawgiver. As soon the Lawgiver dies, the law dies with him and the Uncreators are released from his influence. Uncreator Prime declares Engineer Prime to be a traitor to the Triskele and breaks free from its chains. It brings all the Uncreators forthwith and declares the life of the Human race forfeit for crimes against the Triskele and that the two races are now at war, ordering the Uncreators to kill everyone.
Weeks and the others raise arms at the advancing Uncreators, but it makes no difference. Rathbone finds himself unable to move, his mind having been broken by the Uncreator Prime. The Uncreators advance on Tamworth, but retreat in fear when he shouts at it. The Doctor deduces that the Uncreators hadn't encountered another predator and has the entire crew scare them away by roaring at them. Once the Uncreators had retreated, the Uncreator declares that one day soon, the Uncreators would achieve their potential, before firing a concealed energy weapon at the Doctor. Tamworth demands the Uncreator Prime relinquish the weapon as well as his candidacy for the position of Lawgiver, telling the Doctor to take the crew members and passengers back to the airship.
The Uncreator Prime and Tamworth get involved in a fist fight, with the Uncreator influencing Rathbone to murder Tamworth, but Rathbone manages to resist, shooting the Uncreator Prime instead. Tamworth is then declared Lawgiver by the Triskele. However, Tamworth abolishes the position, opting instead to advise the Triskele for the rest of his days. The Doctor and Charley return to the airship as it leaves the Triskele ship, which then leaves Earth. The Doctor and Charley go to arrange an evacuation of the airship.
Weeks goes to visit the Vortisaur to feed it, when it becomes over-excited and attacks him. While Frayling, Rathbone and the crew and passengers celebrate, the Doctor discovers that Rathbone had stolen the Uncreator Prime's weapon and begs him to throw it overboard, but Rathbone doesn't listen. He makes one last appeal to Frayling, who also doesn't listen, so he punches Rathbone, takes the weapon and he and Charley flee. Frayling sends the crew after them. The pair run into the Vortisaur, who got loose after attacking Weeks and spot Rathbone coming after them. Rathbone corners them, but the Doctor threatens to ignite the airship using the Triskele weapon and tells him about the airship's ultimate fate. Even after this, however, Rathbone attacks them both with a fire axe. The Doctor throws him the Triskele weapon and he falls through a hole he made in the hull. The damage he caused sucks him out and he falls to his death, while the airship begins to fall.
Before the Doctor and Charley are sucked out too, the Doctor coaxes it with his blood again, and they ride it, bareback away from the crash. Frayling acknowledges it's too late for them now, and has one last drink before the ship crashes. The Doctor lands the Vortisaur not far from the crash site and it starts to become afraid of Charley. When Charley goes to catch it, the Doctor muses that it's fearing her because she was supposed to die in that crash. He ponders whether or not to stash her back aboard the airship before the crash, so as to preserve the Web of Time. However, before he can broad the subject to her, Charley delightfully states that she would love to go with him, to which the Doctor reluctantly agrees. They both mount the Vortisaur (which Charley affectionately names 'Ramsey') and the Doctor flies them in the direction of the TARDIS...
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Charley Pollard - India Fisher
- Lord Tamworth - Gareth Thomas
- Lt-Col Frayling - Nicholas Pegg
- Rathbone - Barnaby Edwards
- Chief Steward Weeks - Hylton Collins
- Triskelion - Helen Goldwyn
- Announcer - Mark Gatiss
- The TARDIS lands in Dieppe.
- Tamworth mentions the Hindenburg.
- Weeks hints to Charley that he fought at the Somme.
- The Doctor flips a double-headed "Altarian Dollar", the currency from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- The Doctor finds a signed first edition of the Agatha Christie novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd on board his TARDIS. He also finds War and Peace, The I-Spy Book of British Birds and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He played Tiddlywinks with Tsarina Alexandra and later with Vladimir Lenin on an overnight train from Switzerland to Petrograd. He has also met Geronimo.
- The Doctor states that he learnt to ride Vortisaurs bareback at the Academy.
- The Doctor uses the alias "Doctor Johann Schmidt".
- This release introduces an original theme arrangement, which was composed by David Arnold. This was the first time that an original theme has been used for the Big Finish audios; the first fifteen releases had used the Delia Derbyshire theme.
- Alistair Lock's score to this story was released on the CD Music from the Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures, alongside the other three initial Eighth Doctor audios.
- Although the events portrayed are based on an actual occurrence, all of the characters involved are fictional.
- The Doctor states several times that there were no survivors of the R101 crash. In actuality, eight people survived the crash itself. Two of these individuals later died from injuries sustained in the crash, bringing the total number of survivors to six.
- As the first Eighth Doctor audio drama, this was also the first Big Finish audio drama to take place after the events of TV: Doctor Who, then the most recent televised appearance of the Doctor.
- This audio drama was recorded on 18 May 2000 at Christchurch Studios.
- An illustrated preview of this story appeared in DWM 300 illustrated by Lee Sullivan.
- This is the first Big Finish audio drama to feature the Doctor's sonic screwdriver.
- The story formed part of an Eighth Doctor series on BBC Radio 7 in 2005, alongside the stories Shada, Sword of Orion, The Stones of Venice, Invaders from Mars and The Chimes of Midnight, and has been repeated on multiple occasions since. This led to the commissioning of the original series The Eighth Doctor Adventures, debuting on the digital station in December 2006. Due to a limited timeslot, scenes were edited out of these versions; excluding Shada and The Chimes of Midnight, these were collated into The Eighth Doctor Collection in 2008 with an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary and booklet. Minuet in Hell was excluded from broadcast due to its adult themes.
- This story was originally available on CD. It is now available as a download, as well as to stream on Spotify.
- The first episode of this story was available as a teaser alongside Last of the Titans.
- According to AUDIO: Terror Firma, the Eighth Doctor had numerous adventures prior to this story. During this time, he travelled with siblings Samson and Gemma Griffin as well as Mary Shelley (AUDIO: Mary's Story, et al)
- Although this story depicts the Doctor's first supposed meeting with Charley, it is later revealed that, earlier in his personal timeline, the Sixth Doctor had not only met her but took her on as a companion. (AUDIO: The Condemned to AUDIO: Blue Forgotten Planet) The fact that Doctor does not recognise her later in his timeline was due to his memories of travelling with Charley being supplanted by fabricated memories of travelling with Mila. (AUDIO: Blue Forgotten Planet) Still earlier, in an alternative timeline, the Fourth Doctor met both his eighth incarnation and Charley while he was travelling with Leela. On that occasion, he was very impressed by Charley, telling her that he considered her to be very clever. However, he lost all memory of this encounter when the proper timeline was restored. (AUDIO: The Light at the End) Furthermore, the Seventh Doctor informed Charley's parents Lord Richard and Lady Louisa Pollard of her supposed death aboard the R101 but was unaware of her status as a living temporal paradox. (PROSE: The Heroine, the Hero and the Megalomaniac)
- The Vortisaur known as Ramsay stays in the TARDIS until AUDIO: Minuet in Hell.
- In the far future, radio broadcasts concerning the launch of the R101 could be accessed via the Gogglebox inside the Moon. (AUDIO: The Reaping, The Gathering)
- The Doctor recalls his encounter with Mary Shelley and Lord Byron near Lake Geneva in Switzerland in June 1816. (AUDIO: Mary's Story)
- The Doctor finds a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd which is missing its last page. This would later be revealed to have been a birthday present from his former companion Samson Griffin. (AUDIO: Terror Firma)
- The Doctor mentions that he was onboard the RMS Lusitania when it sank on 7 May 1915. (AUDIO: The Sirens of Time)
- In an alternate timeline in which the Nazis won World War II, an alternative version of the Eighth Doctor likewise used the alias "Johann Schmidt". (AUDIO: Colditz, Klein's Story)
- The Doctor compares the R101 to the Sandminer Storm Mine 4 (TV: The Robots of Death) and the Hyperion III (TV: Terror of the Vervoids).
- The Doctor mentions that he was in South Africa during the Second Boer War and met several Afrikaans. (PROSE: Players)
- Charley would later tell the Doctor that she stowed away on the R101 in order to meet a young man named Alex Grayle in the Singapore Hilton on New Year's Eve 1930. (AUDIO: Seasons of Fear)
- At the time that she boarded the R101, Charley was attending a finishing school run by Miss Lime. (AUDIO: Zagreus)
- The R101 was launched from the Cardington airbase. (AUDIO: Zagreus)
- Suffering from survivor's guilt after the crash of the R101, Simon Murchford later became an Anglican minister in the hopes of reconciling his guilt. (AUDIO: The Next Life) He succeeded Reverend Matthew Townsend as the Cardington airbase's chaplain following his death in 1951. (AUDIO: Zagreus)
- Charley would later be haunted by the expression on Rathbone's face as he fell from the R101 to his death. Although he was the first of many people who attempted to kill her, she was eventually unable to even remember his name. (AUDIO: The Next Life)
- The Pollards' cook Edith Thompson was the only person who knew that Charley intended to stowaway aboard the R101 and helped her to prepare for the adventure. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- Lord Richard Pollard spent years researching the R101 and can name everyone onboard from Lord Tamworth to "the lowliest cabin boy". Several letters mentioned a rendezvous with a foreign power but he was never able to get to the bottom of it. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- Official Storm Warning page at bigfinish.com (download only)
- DisContinuity for Storm Warning at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide