We’ve been following Big Finish for some time now and it’s almost time to put that on the back-burner again, having gone through the first 75 adventures, but this week is a special week and today is January 6th so we need to celebrate. It’s a special day on a few levels. Personally, I started my employment with my fantastic company 13 years ago. It’s also the birthday of one of my dearest friends, although one I rarely see these days due to the physical distance between us. And, most notably for our site, it’s the birthday of someone near and dear to many of us: Mr. Sherlock Holmes. To celebrate that, and launch a new series of articles appearing on Thursday, we’re going to take a fantastic trip with the Great Detective as he befriends an equally magnificent time traveler.
I’m a fan of a number of franchises, but if you boil me down to my base components, Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu mythos make up the 3 biggest ones (with Babylon 5 and Star Trek very hot on their heels). Back in July of 1994, Andy Lane wrote one of my favorite Doctor Who novels in the New Adventure range: All-Consuming Fire. It was so good that I lent it to my best friend under a sworn oath that he would not lose it. Of course, he lost it and I had to buy another copy, but it was one book I didn’t mind buying a second time. In it, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor meets Sherlock Holmes where they travel to R’Lyeh. While the story features more Indian myth than Lovecraftian, it still warmed my heart to know I’d found a book that merged my three favorite franchises. This audio story refers to Azazoth, which I had to verify from the actual novel that it was, in fact, Lovecraft’s Azathoth. No idea why they changed that when they left R’yleh intact.
Having been on a Big Finish kick, I thought I’d wrap up my current run with their version of my favorite New Adventure. I have many more to cover, but of the physical CDs, I had only purchased up to #75 and intend to pause there for a while. So what better way to celebrate the great detective? Have him share an adventure with his spiritual successor, the Doctor. Well, he might not find it that great a gift as his ability to deduce all that he sees is put to the test within the Doctor’s fantastical world, but it sure is fun to hear them together.
Perhaps the hardest thing for me to get past was Nick Briggs as Sherlock. The problem is that, while he is a good Holmes, he’s Nick Briggs – voice of the Daleks. (Which is ironic that just this week we reviewed Eve of the Daleks where he had the humorous line, “I am not Nick”.) I had a surprisingly hard time “seeing” him as Holmes in this adventure; I just kept imagining Nick Briggs. By contrast, McCoy is the Doctor and Richard Earl plays a wonderful Watson. (In fact, this is the same cast for the Sherlock/Watson duo featured in the other Big Finish range of audios.) I found this Watson, the typical everyman, very funny, especially as he boggles over Ace’s leather outfit. I remember that outfit from the cover of some of the New Adventure novels and could imagine Watson’s expression. I did find it odd that he seemed to slip a lot in this story, but Watson was often played for laughs in various versions of Sherlock Holmes, which really never made a lot of sense when we remind ourselves that Watson was a medical man, not a buffoon, but I still appreciate the laughs. When Benny decides to go on a date with Watson, I was happy for the old fellow and it makes for another source of amusement.
This is a big adventure too. We’ve got the Doctor, Ace and Benny, Sherlock and Watson. We also need to include another member of Sherlock’s family. That’s a lot that has to be spread out over effectively 4 half-hour chapters. To tie in with yet another Big Finish franchise, we learn that the Doctor has been lodging with George Litefoot, one of the chief characters in the Jago and Litefoot series, though he doesn’t make an appearance, depressingly. The Doctor has to both meet and stump Sherlock but we have to give Sherlock his due as well; this may be a Doctor Who story but we can’t dismiss Sherlock’s reputation and skill. I do love when the Doctor is asked if he will explain himself to which we are asked: “why change the habit of a lifetime?” Rather apt. I also enjoy the brief moment where the Doctor talks about Susan. I think Susan has been one of the biggest misses of the rebooted Doctor Who; she should have been brought back already, for Gallifrey’s sake!
There’s an enjoyable epilogue regarding cats with Sherlock and Watson, but I have a memory of that meaning more in the novel. Alas, I don’t know when I’ll get around to re-reading the novel, but I still enjoyed the visit and it has made me want to go back for a re-read.
Overall, All-Consuming Fire was one of the most enjoyable and memorable of the New Adventure novels from 1994. To find that Big Finish, creator of some truly outstanding content, brought the book to life was a milestone and one I could not turn down. It was utterly enjoyable and a great way to launch into our series of Thursday articles exploring the world of Sherlock Holmes. What better way to get to that world from the Junkyard than a TARDIS?
Join us each Thursday as we dive into the world of the Great Detective. The game’s afoot! ML
It’s indeed interesting that an actor who made a name for himself as the voices of the Daleks, as well as for other Doctor Who monsters, is also on the long list of many actors to play Sherlock Holmes. Nicholas Briggs is clearly an actor who knows how to use his voice and certainly for an audio drama with his Big Finish resume. So it’s great to have his signature on Sherlock Holmes join Doctor Who. Thanks, ML, for your review.
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