There can be little doubt that this fourth series of The Early Adventures range has been the strongest so far, The Night Witches, The Outliers and The Morton Legacy have all been brilliant. It is good news then that The Wreck of the World brings this strong series to a close on a high!
The Wreck of the World is the Big Finish debut for writer, Timothy X Atack, who recently won the Bruntwood Prize, the largest playwriting award in Europe. And he certainly doesn’t let his success go to his head as he delivers a fantastic story for the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, though as he tells us in the extras, it isn’t a story they would have made on the television due to the lack of budget.
But this is a good thing as it allows him to tell a story on a huge scope. The idea of ships being sent off into space in The Ark in Space is picked up here and they had to make that set using mirrors. There is no way the sixties would have created something like this. That is the beauty of audio, almost anything can be done because it is left to listener’s mind’s eye to create the picture.
Like Jonathan Morris’ Static, The Wreck of the World is another outstanding release from Big Finish. But what makes it so? Well, we have the writing. One imagines just reading the script brought the characters to life without the need for the original actors! And it makes great use of its main cast, Zoe, in particular, gets the majority of the script to show her brilliance in a way I haven’t heard since Last of the Cybermen.
And this story isn’t afraid to take its time, almost the entirety of the first episode is left to the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. It feels very era-appropriate. Atack also gives us brilliant dialogue which manages to carry both the plot and characters without delving so much into heavy exposition, something that not every audio adventure can claim to do.
It should come as no surprise by now that all the main cast fire on all cylinders. Frazer Hines is brilliant as Jamie bringing his character effortlessly back to life. And he is equally as brilliant as the Second Doctor capturing Patrick Troughton’s essence with love and affection. I always look forward to a story where he gets to play Troughton because I know he is so damn good.
Wendy Padbury is just as brilliant and like Anneke Wills before her, she pulls a double duty as her original character, Zoe and the narrator. Like Hines, she manages to capture the innocence and the ‘of the time’ essence of her character, while being allowed the room to grow and expand in a way the television scripts never allowed her to do. She is positively perfect.
Director Lisa Bowerman has also assembled a strong guest cast, who round everything off perfectly. I don’t know where she finds them but Bowerman always seems to find the right people for the job and he has done right again. Particularly brilliant is Adam Newington as Twenty, I really wanted him to join the crew! It just goes to show that good performances and strong writing really does go a long way!
Lisa Bowerman’s direction really helps to drive the story forward and she proves she is damn good at anything she sets her mind too. She knows what us fans want from these stories and seems to get it out of her casts. It must be a tough job mixing the slower pace of the sixties stories with the faster pace of storytelling we are used to these days but she always manages to pull it out of the bag!
Easily another strong piece of this story comes in the form of the sound design from Toby Hyreck-Robinson and the soundscape he creates effortlessly recreates the sounds of the sixties while sounding robust and new its own way. And he manages to make us jump a few times using real screams from the cast in brilliant ways.
The fourth series of The Early Adventures was already going to be a strong one and I’ve no doubt this will become one of the must-have tales in all of Big Finish’s catalogue. I sincerely hope we get more from Timothy X Atack and that this isn’t his only stop with Big Finish and the world of Doctor Who, there are so many more Doctors and Companions for him to play with, it would be a shame if we were to lose him now. Both the cast and crew with this story are brilliant and there is a great understanding of how classic Doctor Who worked that runs throughout the whole package…