The Fourth Doctor Adventures have undergone a bit of a revamp of late. In the years they have been running they have been released in a series of 6 from January to July/August. Series 7 took a different approach and was released in a box-set of four adventures. One thinks this might be due to the large output Big Finish now handles, only so many audios can go out in any given month. But this isn’t bad news for fans of the Fourth Doctor as instead of waiting a month for the next release, we get all the releases in one go!
The Fourth Doctor and Leela are at the height of their travels. The TARDIS takes them from the strangely shadowy backstreets of London in the 1940s to a hotel in the 1970s. Then they are onto a planet called Drummond. They find a world obsessed with technology and so lost in their screens, the people can’t see what is happening around them. While the rich get richer and the homeless become more and more hungry, the Doctor and Leela have differing views on how to handle the situation. But it is all part of the machinations of an old enemy, so one who has encountered the Doctor on a couple of occasions. The last time was in a country house, then in the far future. Now on Drummond, he is rising again and this time, Sutekh will be free…
THE SHADOW OF LONDON
The set kicks things off with The Shadow of London by Justin Richards and it starts the set off at a great pace. With the TARDIS arriving in London during the early 1940s, the Doctor and Leela are confronted with a strange environment. Everything seems slightly off and the British public is just slightly too British.
Of course, it doesn’t take the pair to realise that things are wrong here and they are soon embroiled in the mystery as the bodies begin to stack up. Justin Richards gives us a very strong story using a concept we have seen before but making it feel fresh again. In fact, it feels like there could have been a little room to make this story a four-parter instead of just two episodes but maybe it was for the best. Richards brings some weighty questions to the party too. What is ethical in war? How far is too far? He does it intelligently and doesn’t give us any easy answers.
What makes the story even better is its heavy message that while the Doctor can solve the current problem, a crazy hybrid on a homicidal rampage, he can’t fix the war. That is one monster he must consign to human history. And it isn’t an easy message either as the Doctor is so obviously torn up about it. The Shadow of London is a great way to kick things off.
THE BAD PENNY
The second story for the set is The Bad Penny comes from Dan Starkey, who pens his second solo story after The Authentic Experience at the beginning of the year.
The Bad Penny was for me, the weakest story of the set but only because the first episode felt a little slow. No doubt it was because they were building up to the cliff-hanger and the second episode but it just felt like there was too much talking and wandering around with no clear idea of where they were going.
Once the second episode kicks in, things really get going and you’ll find yourself investing in a lot of the characters more easily. And the monster, when it is finally revealed is quite interesting. Starkey takes the timey-whimeyness and cranks things up to eleven in the second episode with the introduction of possible futures. To say any more would spoil the second act. But once, more, not having enjoyed Starkey’s debut co-authored Terror of the Sontarans with John Dorney in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised by this. Keep it up Mr Starkey.
KILL THE DOCTOR! & THE AGE OF SUTEKH
Kill the Doctor! and The Age of Sutekh forms the final four-part story split over two discs. It is down to Guy Adams to craft a suitable tale for the return of one of Doctor Who’s most enduring monsters, the Osiran God, Sutekh.
What is so impressive about these two tales is that Adams does something very, very clever with it. First of all, he decided to set it after the events of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield: Volume 2 and these stories see Sutekh having been reduced into something akin to the Great Intelligence, a creature that inhabits people’s minds. Having been reduced to a floating consciousness, Sutekh is hungrier than ever to get back to the land of the living only to destroy it all!
It is a real delight to hear Gabriel Woolfe back as Sutekh, his voice is so deliciously evil, (I’m sure he is a really nice guy in real life!) and it works so well on audio. Hearing his interactions with Leela is a delight too. Leela came at a time when a lot of the monsters were original creations. On television, she never met the Daleks, the Sontarans, Cybermen, The Master, Omega or Sutekh. On audio, she has met all of them and then some in various forms, be it in Doctor Who, Gallifrey or Jago & Litefoot. Leela has now joined Sarah Jane, Ace and Bernice Summerfield in the list of companions who have socked it to Sutekh!
The performances from all around are just excellent, I don’t think, if you’ll pardon the pun, there is a bad penny amongst them all. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on fine form and I hope they continue to travel together for as long as humanly possible. Gabriel Woolfe is still just as sinister as Sutekh as he was in 1975. The guest cast is excellent, with Darren Boyd, John Dorney and Sophia Myles particularly standing out.
The sound design from Jamie Robertson is great too, effortlessly fitting in with every story without distracting you too much from the tale and the direction from Ken Bentley is superb. Bentley is only one of a handful of directors at Big Finish who seem to know how to get the best out of their actors. He has done it again here. Well done.
This set is just excellent. The stories are great with some great scripts and concepts from everyone involved. The cast is fabulous and the whole thing feels like a well put together package. One might even say it is essential…
7.5 The Shadow of London by Justin Richards
The TARDIS materialises in the backstreets of London in the 1940s. Whilst K9 entertains himself in the time ship’s library, the Doctor takes Leela for a walk in the streets.
But England’s capital is oddly quiet. There are no cars and very few pedestrians… whilst those people they do meet appear really quite English indeed. And all the while they are monitored by cameras feeding images into a secret control room.
Something strange is happening in the city. Traitors are running wild… and nothing and no-one are quite as they seem.
7.6 The Bad Penny by Dan Starkey
In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite… which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.
When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.
Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel.
You can check in… but you can never leave.
7.7 Kill the Doctor! by Guy Adams
The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the datastream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.
But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.
Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s datastream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?
7.8 The Age of Sutekh by Guy Adams
The world has changed. And the evil Osiran Sutekh is returning.
As blood sacrifices and worship boost the strength of the God of War, servicer robots walk the streets, killing those who have not converted.
Leela is working with the homeless population of the city, while the Doctor co-operates with the police.
A brutal battle is ready to begin. And if the Doctor and his friends fail, everyone in the galaxy will perish.
Written By: Justin Richards, Dan Starkey, Guy Adams
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs, Ken Bentley
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Darren Boyd (Hemmings), Timothy Speyer (Fanshaw), Catherine Bailey (Maddox), Dan Starkey (Hadean/ Small Hadean/ Liddell/ Mr Richards), Keith Barron (Lord Tulip), Greg Haiste (Ron Tulip), Andrew Ryan (Edwin), Laura Rees (Deborah / Major Harris), Sophia Myles (Rania Chuma), Gabriel Woolf (Sutekh), Eleanor Crooks (Kendra), John Dorney (Charlton Joyce), Barnaby Edwards (Ash/ Stall Owner/ Shop Keeper/ Barge Captain/ Dupree). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs