Rewritten from material that I originally posted 5/31/13 on another forum.
Blurb: Once before the Doctor battled the sadistic Rocket Men and once before he won. But when the dreaded pirates of the skies raid a remote frontier planet, he's not the only member of the TARDIS crew for whom they are old enemies.
Steven Taylor knows them well. Back in his days as a pilot, on his twenty first birthday, Steven's ship was brought down by the malevolent Van Cleef. He barely escaped with his life. And now he's going to have to go through that again.
But this time round, he knows what happens. And he knows there's no way out. Steven Taylor has to make a choice. A choice where either way... he loses.
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Steven Taylor. Published by Big Finish Productions and released November of 2012.
Setting: Planet Ulysses 519, sometime in the mid-23rd century. The details of when or why Steven is narrating this story are not given.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Gunfighters and The Savages and after the audio story Mother Russia. Steven refers to the fact that New York still had not been rebuilt in his own time (see The Dalek Invasion of Earth and the novel, Salvation). Steven recalls being imprisoned for years on Mechanus (see The Chase). Steven recalls the recent deaths of Sara Kingdom (see The Daleks Masterplan), Oliver Harper (see The First Wave), and Semeon (see Mother Russia). Steven also recalls having been in the far future (see the Ark), the Celestial Toyroom (see The Celestial Toymaker), and the Old West. He also recalls his name of Steven Regret when he was in Tombstone (see The Gunfighters). The Doctor mentions that he's fought the Rocket Men before and Van Cleef also refers to that story saying that Ashman had become to ambitious and that the Rocket Men are better off being raiders (see The Rocket Men).
Canonicity Quotient: A story made far stronger with its ties to other stories rather than less so. 1.00
Discussion: When do you know?
When do you know that you've discovered greatness?
When do you know?
When do you know that you're going to write an outstanding review?
When do you know?
So anyhow, Return of the Rocket Men may have just taken my top slot on first Doctor Companion Chronicles from the original Rocket Men. Either way its ranks up there for me with that title and Transit of Venus. This was just awesome. Not only does it get the characters exactly spot on - even Dodo who doesn't get much to do but when she's there is the same strangely perky girl she is from the series - but it also is the culmination of everything that BF has done with Steven to date. It manages to be a sequel to The Rocket Men, The First Wave, and Mother Russia all at the same time and we get such a wonderful insight into Steven's mind and character.
Just like the first Rocket Men we have a wonderful voice cast mixed with wonderful sounds. Peter Purves once again proves how phenomenal his voice is as he plays the regulars and the people of the colony. He manages to put real emotion into every scene. When he goes off to die I actually teared up, the first time this has happened with an audio, which tells me how emotionally packed this story is.
Some reviews have said that its to obvious who rescues Steven in the flashback. I think those reviewers are missing the point. That part isn't supposed to be difficult. Even Steven works it out pretty quickly. We're supposed to know that. That's why we're also supposed to know that he's supposed to die. It's Steven's attitude towards that, both fatalistic and downbeat while being optimistic that is what the whole story hinges on. Steven is saving his younger self and allowing him to have those good experiences and memories that he wouldn't want to lose for anything while knowing that this could be his end. That heroism in a single action is the kind of thing that the Companion Chronicles can do that is so much harder in a larger cast where you want everyone to shine. It was so well done that I'm still boggling at how just wonderfully good this whole story is.
When the worst thing that I can say about a story is that the whole idea of a machine that can tell them what the month and day is on Earth but not the year is insane you know you have a good audio. Besides its perfectly in keeping with the era. The Doctor had all sorts of goofy stuff that didn't make sense.
So far the Rocket Men are 2 for 2. I'm looking forward to a Season 4 Rocket Men story because that's the season where I can actually see the production team of the era trying the Rocket Men as the series went more to an adventure serial format. I wonder if we'll get it before the CC's end or maybe get it as one of the first Early Adventures? A full cast audio with the Rocket Men would be pretty special.
Final Rating: 10/10
Recommendation: A sequel to multiple stories and storylines, Return of the Rocket Men is where everything comes together. Yet, it never feels to continuity bound and its all in the service of telling the story of Steven as a character. This is really one of the shining stars of the companion chronicles and I highly recommend it. While I do think that you can get through it just fine without knowing the surrounding stories it would benefit if you are familiar with Steven's season 3 stories as well as the audios The Rocket Men, the Oliver Harper Trilogy, and Mother Russia.