The Sirens of Time was the first story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Nicholas Briggs, and featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and introduced Anthony Keetch as Vansell.
Gallifrey is in crisis, facing destruction at the hands of an overwhelming enemy. And the Doctor is involved in three different incarnations — each caught up in a deadly adventure, scattered across time and space. The web of time is threatened — and someone wants the Doctor dead.
The three incarnations of the Doctor must join to set time back on the right track — but in doing so, will they unleash a still greater threat?
A TARDIS arrives on Gallifrey, flown by Coordinator Vansell. He is confronted by security forces but claims the planet is in terrible danger and demands to see the Lord President, who learns that he is right. Their planet is under siege by an unknown species. Vansell also informs the Lord President that traces of artron energy have been detected in some form of time distortion — that of the Doctor.
In the Seventh Doctor's TARDIS, things seem to be running normally when suddenly the Cloister Bell goes off. A strange, almost hypnotic sound is heard and the Doctor alters the ship's coordinates, immediately wondering why he has done so as the ship lands. A Time Lord tries to communicate with the Doctor, but the signal is cut off before he can reveal his message. The Doctor hears the sound again, coming from outside the TARDIS.
Leaving the TARDIS, the Doctor hears a distant voice calling for help. A girl called Elenya is trapped in quicksand. He tells her not to struggle as he hacks his way through the undergrowth with his umbrella. A mysterious woman appears and laughs at the Doctor. He ignores her and goes to the aid of Elenya. Using his umbrella, he pulls her out of the bog and onto a safe patch of land.
Sancroff, who is a prisoner in the home of the woman, Ruthley, is waiting for her return. She tells him that she hates her job, which is to tend to him and prevent him from leaving. Ruthley reluctantly helps Sancroff into his bed. Speaking through a communicator with guards hovering above the planet, she then lies and tells the guards that there are no visitors on the surface. Meanwhile, The Doctor finds himself locked out of his TARDIS. Elenya explains about her arrival; she is a geologist and her friends, her tutor and her pilot have been killed in a crash on the planet. A ship suddenly breaks through the planet's atmosphere and crashes into the surface.
The Doctor and Elenya walk across the surface to try to find some kind of civilisation. The Doctor spots light from a window, and the two begin to head towards it. More ships come bursting through the planet's atmosphere, including one which crashes very close to where they are walking. Back at Ruthley's house, she communicates with another life form through her communicator, who confirm that they are deploying themselves to the planet's surface.
More ships are crashing down all around the Doctor and Elenya. They investigate one ship's fiery wreckage and find what they initially believe are the remains of the crew. The Doctor deciphers that the creatures are actually in the process of being born. Meanwhile, a security Drudger reports back to Ruthley that they have extinguished the fires from one crashed ship and located two survivors, who are the Doctor and Elenya. She asks them to kill the two, but the Drudger responds that such a procedure is "not permitted".
The Doctor and Elenya meet up with several Drudgers, who ask them to surrender any weaponry and identify themselves. They then begin a mind scan of the two, which is extremely painful and knocks the Doctor and Elenya out cold. When they awake, they are at Ruthley's house and Sancroff is with them. The Drudgers encounter bio-engineered life forms (the assassins) emerging from the wreckage that the Doctor and Elenya encountered earlier. A Drudger confronts the assassins, who open fire and destroy it. Ruthley gloats to Sancroff that the assassins are here to kill him, as they destroy more Drudgers. Sancroff realises that Ruthley has done a deal with the assassins; he tells the Doctor and Elenya to leave, but the Doctor responds that there is no way for them to leave the planet.
The Drudgers return fire, but nothing seems to be working; they retreat. The assassins are converging on the main building. The Doctor, Elenya and Sancroff enter Ruthley's room, as she goes to tell the assassins where they are; they find live footage of Ruthley speaking to the assassins. They kill her because she would be a "witness". The others learn that Sancroff is or was First Knight of Velyshaa; the Doctor tries to create a force field, but the creatures find them before he has the chance.
One of the assassins plays a message which brands Sancroff a war criminal and sentences him to execution. The Doctor informs the assassins that he and Elenya are there by accident; they respond that they have no quarrel with either of them, but that there must be no witnesses, and open fire...
On the merchant ship, the TARDIS arrives and the Fifth Doctor emerges. He's searching for a signal of some kind. It finally locks on and the Time Lords try to contact him. The message is unclear, but they apparently want him to re-enter the TARDIS because time is running out. The Doctor tries the lock, but the ship won't open, he calls for Turlough and Tegan, but they don't open the door. A woman by the name of Helen appears and asks the Doctor what he is doing on board the ship. Suddenly, there is a large explosion as a gun from the U-Boat hits the side of the ship.
Aboard the U-Boat, the Captain sees two survivors, and decides to bring them aboard. The Captain is surprised that the Doctor can speak German. The Doctor and Helen are placed inside a cell. Helen worries that the Doctor may be a Hun spy. The Doctor is even more worried about his message from the Time Lords. He tries calling to the Germans to free him.
British destroyers are gathering on the surface and so the German Captain decides it is time to escape the area. The Doctor wishes to speak with him and tries to persuade him that he is actually a German spy and has found secret documents aboard the ship, which is now reduced to wreckage. The Captain does not believe him and orders Schmidt to return him to his cell.
Back in the cell, Helen watches as Schmidt suddenly becomes possessed by some force and tries to kill the Doctor, who deduces that it is the Time Lords who are trying to kill him for some strange reason. The Captain arrives and orders Schimdt to be tied to his bunk.
The Time Lord President is unsure of Vansell's actions to try and stop the Doctor. Using someone by time distortion wasn't the best idea. Vansell disagrees and counters that the Doctor must be stopped for the sake of time.
The German commandant can see smoke on the horizon, claiming that it is British ships approaching.
In his cell, the Doctor is wondering why the Time Lords would want to kill him. He tells Helen that he needs to return to his TARDIS. Helen can sense that it's important to him somehow.
Schmidt is now awake and can hear voices in his head. It is the voice of Vansell and he is telling him to grab a weapon and to kill the Doctor.
The Germans discover that the ship is large and is coming towards them at a speed that they wouldn't be able to match, let alone outrun.
Schmidt has now entered the Doctor and Helen's cell with a gun pointed at the Doctor. The Doctor tries to reassure him that they do not know each other and gives reasons why he shouldn't kill him. The Lord President is still trying to stop Vansell, realising that the Doctor knows what he must do. The Germans in the control room hear a shot and the Captain goes to see what has happened.
Helen has managed to take the gun, but Schmidt collapses, a side effect of the time distortion. The Captain and crew arrive, but Helen has them at gunpoint. The Doctor is hoping to discover his ship again.
The Doctor navigates the U-Boat to the position of the TARDIS. He escapes the ship and jumps into the water. The British ships are closing in and the U-Boat goes back under.
The Doctor reaches his ship but has no luck in opening the doors. He is trapped, floating at sea.
Vansell informs the Lord President that he has found the Doctor again, this time in his sixth incarnation. The Lord President replies that the transduction barrier has broken, and the alien ships are coming through, demanding that Gallifrey surrenders. They call themselves the Knights of Velyshaa.
The Doctor is thrown out of his TARDIS after a collision with a temporal anomaly and finds himself in the hospitality suite in a starliner. A waitress names Ellie is surprised to see him but concludes that he's one of the delegates. The Doctor feels like he's met her before but follows her into the conference room. He's on the starship Edifice with the Galactic Wonders Commission, to study the Kurgon Wonder up close. The Doctor begins to suspect that the Kurgon Wonder is more than a 'gaseous anomaly'.
In order to get a better look at the Wonder, the android pilot Azimendah brings them closer than anyone has ever been before. Suddenly, an enormous particle disruption field envelops the ship, The Doctor seems to recognise it as a shard of time distortion, and hears a deep voice begging for help.
Apart from The Doctor and Ellie, everyone else in the room has turned to dust. As they search for any other survivors, Ellie explains that the Kurgon government was trying to convince the delegates to enter the Wonder into the galactic tourist guide. The Doctor, however, suspects that Ellie is more than she seems; even though she claims not to understand how she survived the time distortion. In any case, the Doctor believes the Kurgon Wonder to be a temporal anomaly, and that his TARDIS is trapped inside, along with something else.
Azimendah, the android pilot, recovers from the time distortion to find that his internal timekeeping has broken and the ship is barely functioning. He records a captain’s log and searches for survivors, rescuing the Doctor and Ellie from a group of creatures which turn out to be incredibly evolved bacteria. The Doctor, Ellie, and Azimendah are the only ones left alive.
Suddenly, they are attacked by a monster onboard the ship but Azimendah manages to shoot it before it can do any harm. However, the ship‘s hull begins disintegrating after being hit by another time distortion.
Meanwhile on Gallifrey, the Knights proceed to shoot both the Lord President and Vansell, their weapons cancelling out both of their regenerative processes. Before Vansell’s death, he sends a important message for the Doctor, stating that he should "not free the Temperon".
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- Fifth Doctor - Peter Davison
- Sixth Doctor - Colin Baker
- Seventh Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
- Commander Raldeth / Schmidt - Andrew Fettes
- Coordinator Vansell - Anthony Keetch
- The President - Michael Wade
- Knight Commander Lyena - Sarah Mowat
- Ruthley - Maggie Stables
- Sancroff - Colin McIntyre
- Commandant / Lt Zentner / Pilot Azimendah / Sub-Commander Solanec - John Wadmore
- Captain Schwieger / Captain / Knight 2 - Mark Gatiss
- The Temperon / Drudgers - Nicholas Briggs
- Delegate - Nicholas Pegg
- The Kurgon Wonder was created as a result of the Knights of Velyshaa attempting to capture the Temperon.
- The fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations of the Doctor make telepathic contact with one another to appraise all of them of the situation.
- The Fifth Doctor appears to speak German thanks to the TARDIS's translation circuits.
- Tegan Jovanka and Turlough are trapped in the Fifth Doctor's TARDIS when it materialises on the U-20.
- The Sixth Doctor mentions that he knows Hadene Lestrade.
- Coordinator Vansell is a member of the Celestial Intervention Agency.
- The Galactic Wonders Commission decides which objects are Wonders of the Universe.
- TARDISes have time cores.
- Vansell's TARDIS is a modified, unregistered Type 70 which he uses for his missions for the Celestial Intervention Agency.
Theories and concepts
- The Laws of Time are meant to stop the Doctor's incarnations from meeting each other.
- The Fifth Doctor accidentally prevents the U-20 from sinking the RMS Lusitania in the Atlantic Ocean on 7 May 1915. Though the First World War was largely unchanged, this allowed Eric Charles Vincent to kill Alexander Fleming in a botched robbery attempt in December 1927 before the biologist discovered penicillin. Without the protection offered by penicillin, Earth fell prey to new strains of meningitis and pneumonia in 1956 and the survivors never developed a space programme. Consequently, the Knights of Velyshaa were not defeated by the Earth Alliance in 3562 as they otherwise would have been.
- This was the very first Big Finish audio for Doctor Who. It opened with the following line from a computer warning system on Gallifrey (voiced by Nicholas Briggs): "Sector 8 alert! Sector 8 alert! Unauthorised capsule entry imminent! Repeat: Unauthorised capsule entry imminent! Stand two on Sector 8!"
- In his synopsis for The Sirens of Time, Nicholas Briggs gave each episode a title: The Knight of Velyshaa, Ship of Destiny, Death of Wonder and Nexus Point/Curse of the Temperon. The overall title was inspired by the book The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut.
- The CD booklet for this story contained synopses of each part of the story which evoked the Radio Times listings of the original Doctor Who series.
- Several references to the Audio Visuals audio dramas are made during this story, including; the appearance of Drudgers, originally robotic servants of Conglomerate who appeared in Conglomerate, The Destructor Contract and Subterfuge; the appearance of the Temperons, which first appeared in The Time Ravagers; and the mention of the Calfadorian Tri-Planetary Alliance, which first appeared in Maenad before being mentioned several times in future stories.
- In episode two, Helen and the U-boat crew are unable to understand each other, despite the usual application of the Doctor/TARDIS' translation circuit, hinting to Helen's true nature.
- The Sirens of Time was originally released on cassette and CD. Later the cassette version was replaced by a digital download. On 1 August 2013, Big Finish stopped repressing the CDs. Only the download version remains available.
- This audio drama was recorded on 6 and 7 March 1999 at Crosstown Studios, London.
- A documentary, Talkin 'Bout My Regeneration, was released on CD with DWM 279 to promote the series, discussing the genesis of Big Finish and their future aims and featuring clips and interviews from the recording sessions. In July 2014, it was released as a free download on the Big Finish website.
- The first part of this story was offered as a free download with DWM 467, along with a number of other "Part Ones".
- Initially, the producer Gary Russell wanted to use writers who already worked on televised or prose Doctor Who.
- The plot originally involved a War Lord from the television story The War Games.
- Nicholas Briggs, who wrote the story, wanted to make a Dalek story, but Big Finish had not yet secured the rights to use them. Thus, they settled on a multi-Doctor story.
- The story was featured in the "Archive Tease" segment of the Big Finish Podcast of 28 October 2018. The segment included a 15-minute excerpt from the story, preceded by Nicholas Briggs recalling his work on it.
- The Fifth Doctor is still travelling with Tegan Jovanka and Vislor Turlough, who remain in his TARDIS throughout the story.
- According to PROSE: Instruments of Darkness, Evelyn Smythe was in the TARDIS while the Sixth Doctor was at the Kurgon Wonder.
- The Sixth Doctor recalls climbing the Himalayas in 1289 during his first incarnation. (TV: Marco Polo)
- The Doctors initiate telepathic contact with one another by saying "Contact". (TV: The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors et al.) The Eighth Doctor would later initiate telepathic contact with the Master on Xenotopia, (AUDIO: The Missing Link) while the Thirteenth Doctor and the Master would do the same, while in 1943 Paris during the German occupation in World War II. (TV: Spyfall)
- Official The Sirens of Time page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for The Sirens of Time at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide
- Official Talking 'Bout My Regeneration page at bigfinish.com