Welcome fellow mortals to the Big Finishing Move here on One Of Us. This is my little digital kiosk on the greater interwebs where I review the works of Big Finish and let the people know if something is of quality or if their money is better served getting a second can of cranberry sauce (I know this is coming out after Thanksgiving, but I’m sticking with the joke I’ve made).
Today were taking a small departure from our regular fare by looking at the first entry in the second series of The Early Adventures. This range blends full cast with sections of narration by one of the actors. On top of that is the fact that Big Finishing Move has never before covered a Second Doctor story. True, the cosmic hobo was their when we covered the 50th Anniversery Special The Light At The End back when I was just starting out, but this is the first complete adventure I’ve covered starring him.
TARDIS Team: The Second Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie
Y’know, the Doctor can be a little touchy sometimes. While teaching Ben and Polly some of the basics of flying the TARDIS his companions have a bit of a giggle at the idea that he is trying to teach them anything about the ship seeing as he is rarely able to fly it where he wants it to go. Flabbergasted and flummoxed by this, the Doctor leaps at the controls to show them what for and get Ben and Polly back to 1966 which of course ends with them landing somewhere and somewhen else entirely. Say what you will about the Doctor being a bad driver in his old age, he was ten times worse in his earliest incarnations. The gang has landed in New Houston, a space colony the doctor had saved in his previous incarnation. Deciding that as long as he’s already here he may as well look up his old friend Meg Carvossa the Doctor is horrified to learn that his Meg has been murdered and the Doctor swears to get to the bottom of things. Launched deep into a web of political intrigue and a full on robo-rebellion can the Doctor unravel truth of what is going on and will New Houston survive it?
I’ve always praised Big Finish for matching the pacing and tone of the series for each Doctor’s era and it is well on display here. Early Who was a slow burn still best viewed to this day while taking breaks in between parts. This isn’t to say the stories are boring, quite the contrary, it leaves plenty of room for character and world building, but it can be a lot to ask of anyone to sit and listen straight through as that isn’t the way it was designed.
Frazer Hines does the best he can to channel his dearly departed buddy, Patrick Troughton, but as good as he is the effect is far from perfect. I love Patrick Troughton, to me his era in terms of the way stories were told as well as his performance is when Doctor Who became the Doctor Who we all know and love. The problem is that Troughton put on such a complicated and nuanced performance that try as people might, they only can duplicate parts, never the total package. Hines has Troughton’s odd phrasing and cadence down and can do the quieter and middle ranged stuff, but he can’t do the shouty bits that well and given that the Second Doctor was prone to quite a bit shouting be it panicked, angry, or otherwise you can see how easily the illusion starts to crack. I’m not knocking Hines on this, to duplicate Troughton fully is a feat I’ve not seen anyone do professionally or otherwise and the amount he does get right is a testament to his quality as an actor. They do try and help Hines out by having some things narrated rather then performed, but that leads to another issue.
I’m not sold on how the narration works in this range. I don’t think they necessary and it isn’t even done in character. This sort of thing can work in certain situations such as if it a single actor doing everything, or having the narrator played by person who acts in a world outside of the other actors, or have a character go ahead and break the fourth wall to speak to the audience. Hearing Anneke Wills as Polly stop and then slip into omniscient third-person narration is an odd and distracting transition and is a shame as the story is strong enough on its own without them.
The best part of this whole thing is that it is a good story with complex characters. No one view is completely without merit, but that does not mean that all the views are equal. There is a person who’s actions cause all the problems in this story but not all the results are negative and I hesitate to call them a villain. It’s a story of victims, and how the fight to never be one again can have dire consequences. The fact that the in the end the robots act with more dignity and humanity then most of the people we’ve spent the last hour or so listening to is telling. the message is far from subtle, but it never feels like they are trying to shove the moral down the audiences throat.
If you are happy that the new season of Doctor Who has mostly two-parters an an overall slower pace (like I am) than this might just be the trick for you. However, if you lean more towards the more beat driven pace of the Ninth though Eleventh Doctor’s run than this isn’t your cup of tea. Despite my complaining I really did get a sense of enjoyment from this one and time permitting I think I’ll come back to The Early Adventures soon.
Purchase Doctor Who:The Early Adventures: The Yes Men Here
The audiophile in you not yet sated? Well, as it just so happens we just may have something for quench that. Here at One of Us we have our own audio drama series Infinite Variations, and we are also proud to host the spin-off from The Intergalactic Nemesis, the one and only Salt! All this happens to be 100% free so kick back, relax, and indulge yourself.
Next time we go where Big Finish has never gone before:
See you then!
Check out my previous reviews:
Phantasmagoria, The Fearmonger, The Light At The End, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, Storm Warning, Blood of the Daleks, The Chimes of Midnight, Seasons of Fear, The King of Sontar, White Ghosts, Dark Eyes II, The Crooked Man, Project: Twilight, The Evil One, The Harvest, The Last Of The Colophon, The Council Of Nicaea, Destroy The Infinite, Afterlife, The Abandoned, Zygon Hunt, Revenge Of The Swarm, Philip Hinchcliffe Presents Box Set, Dark Eyes 3, Mask of Tragedy, The Fourth Doctor By Gareth Roberts, The Exxilions, The Darkness of Glass, Dark Eyes IV, Requiem for the Rocket Men, Signs And Wonders, Death Match, Suburban Hell, The Burning Prince, The Cloisters of Terror, The Acheron Pulse, The Fate of Krelos, The Shadow Heart, Return to Telos, The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure, Doom Collation I