Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

The Fourth Doctor adventures, fourth series

There was a time when I faithfully tracked each of Big Finish's Doctor Who releases as they came out, and reported them here. I fell out of the habit some time around 2014, and indeed stopped listening to Big Finish all that much until the lockdown really started to hit a year ago. Now there is far too much material to hope that I will ever catch up with it all, so I've been selecting particular characters to follow and made a new commitment to myself to write the stories up here as I get through them.

My most recent run has been the fourth series of Fourth Doctor Adventures, released in 2015. (I previously wrote up the first series here, here and here; I don't seem to have written up the second series, though it was hilarious; and I wrote up the third here and here.) These are eight stories (well, seven and a half) featuring Louise Jameson as Leela and usually John Leeson as K9, with some good scripts and excellent guest performances.
The first of these is The Exxilons, by Nicholas Briggs, bringing back the race only previously seen in the Third Doctor story Death to the Daleks - and very cleverly not revealing their actual connection to the plot until quite a long way in. It's an inrteresting set-up of a primitive race interacting with more developed visitors (with some echoes therefore of The Face of Evil); the visiting ship's captain is played by Jacqueline King (Donna's mother in TV Who) with an American accent. A soundscape that realises spearfights well. Available here or here.

The Darkness of Glass, by Justin Richards, is set on a fogbound island off the English coast in 1907, clearly evoking the spirit of Horror of Fang Rock and to a lesser extent The Talons of Weng Chiang. For an audio play, the solution to the story is surprisingly visual. The lovely Sinead Keenan and her brother Rory both appear, sadly dropping their native Irish accents. Nicely done nostalgia. Available here or here.

Requiem for the Rocket Men, by John Dorney, brings back the jet-pack wearing space pirates who have appeared in a couple of BF's First Doctor stories (written up here and here, and they also pop up in the second of these stories). To be honest, I wasn't wowed by the concept on their previous outings, but this is a very good tale, bringing in Geoffrey Beevers' Master and Mark Frost as a tremendously villanous King of the Rocket Men, allowing John Leeson to be Evil K9 for a change, and also giving Leela a bit of romance, rather more credibly than she was allowed on TV, with a junior Rocket Man played by Damien Lynch. Available here or here.
Death Match, by Matt Fitton, worked least well of these for me, though that's still not bad as I enjoyed them all. Making Leela a gladiator is one of those rather obvious ideas, and was done, if imperfectly, by Chris Boucher in his novel Match of the Day in 2006. Geoffrey Beevers' Master is here as well, and Susan Brown (recently Septa Mordane in Game of Thrones). But it's fairly obvious from the start what's going to happen, and it duly does. Available here or here.

Suburban Hell, by Alan Barnes, on the other hand is a brilliant evocation of, first, the Doctor and Leela intruding into the 1970s suburban environment where their TV adventures were being enjoyed, and second,and second, the awful horror lurking behind what appears to be suburban normality. Annette Badland and Katy Wix knock it out of the park as the two apparently normal women to whom abnormal things are happening. Great stuff. Available here or here.

The Cloisters of Terror, by Jonathan Morris, brings back Rowena Cooper to a previous Big Finish role as Dame Emily Shaw, mother of Liz Shaw and Dean of St Matilda's College, Oxford. She was great in The Last Post, and she's great in this too. Having myself attended a convent school and then a Cambridge college, you always wonder what historical horrors might be lurking in the cellar. Available here or here.

But it really annoyed me that the characters inconsistently call Rowena Cooper's character both "Dame Emily" and "Dame Shaw". Correct usage is "Dame Emily". "Dame Shaw" is wrong; and you can bet that if she was Dean of the college she'd have made sure everyone knew it. (A friend of mine, who I will call Sam Spade, got a knighthood in the recent New Years Honours. When I congratulated him on getting his gong, he said, "Yes, but my wife was made a Dame a year ago, so I've been Lady Spade for the last twelve months.")


Finally, a double story, The Fate of Krelos / Return to Telos by Nicholas Briggs, brings the Doctor and Leela to a planet where the Vingean singularity is at hand, and then to Telos where they become part of a time paradox in the wings of Tomb of the Cybermen, with Frazer Hines returning as Jamie and also Bernard Holley as crewman Haydon. But the star turn is Michael Cochrane, who was Charles Cranleigh in Black Orchid and then Redvers Fenn-Cooper in Ghost Light, and also brilliant as Colonel Spindleton in the two-parter that ended the second series of audio Fourth Doctor Adventures (Trail of the White Worm / The Oseidon Adventure). Here he is both the elderly chap who is uploading his consciousness, and the robot to whom it is being uploaded. It's quite an intricate plot but it is worked out very nicely. Available here/here or here/here.

So basically, I'm several years late but very glad to be catching up with these.
Tags: doctor who, doctor who: 04, doctor who: audio
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