Howdy-ho neighbors and welcome back to Big Finishing Move, the little section of One Of Us I’ve craved away to review audio dramas by Big Finish and let you know if they are actually worth that extra money you have squirreled away in your sock drawer. On the docket today is the first entry in the Fourth Doctor Adventures for 2015. Last year was the strongest the range has ever been, so does the season four starter continue the trend of quality or deliver a dud? Read on and find out!
TARDIS Team: The Fourth Doctor, Leela, and K-9 Mark I
Out in the universe looking for stuff (as you do), the Doctor and friends make a stop at planet E9874. Here they find two races in an uneasy alliance, the primitive yet powerful Tarl and the technologically advanced Locoyuns. In exchange for information and tech the Locoyuns have tasked the Tarl with the construction of a beacon. It all seems innocent enough, but it soon becomes apparent that there is much more going on here. Can the Doctor figure out what is going on while two sides sit at the brink of war and even if he can, will there be anyone left to save? Oh, and what the hell does this have to do with Exxilon?
Our three leads all are in fine form, but Tom Baker once takes the cake. He get to slip into the wily and wise old sage role here, which is just the kind of thing Baker was born to do and he plays it for all it’s worth. Leela isn’t given much to do and even has to be saved by the Doctor, however thanks to good writing and Louise Jameson’s strong performance it doesn’t diminish Leela to a simple damsel in distress.
To writer Nick Briggs’ credit, he didn’t make anybody the straight up villain. The Locoyuns for lack of a better term, are part of a cult. Sure there are people who are doing out and out wrong, but this is due to a lack of understanding and perspective and it is good to hear them grow and challenge their beliefs as they go along. Even the most extreme and hardcore of the antagonists if you really stop and look at him is a victim. It doesn’t forgive his actions of course, but it does make him understandable. He’s not only drank the Kool-Aid, he has guzzled it down and now that is all he understands. It shows not only the danger of cults and zealotry, but also how otherwise good people can be manipulated into doing awful things and why people need to stop and question their beliefs all the time.
New to this season is the addition of K-9 Mark I to the Fourth Doctor Adventures. K-9 had been featured in season 2 which featured the late Mary Tamm in her final reprisal as Romana I, but as clever fans know, that was the Mark II unit. People are split on the Tin Dog with some fans loving him and others claiming K-9 was too silly and powerful and sucked the tension out of things. I consider myself in the like camp, John Leeson has always been able to brilliantly bounce off Tom Baker making the character enjoyable and when used properly only adds to a story as I believe he does here. Also when K-9 would be an outright hindrance to the story there have been at least a dozen reasons writers have used over the years to keep him in the TARDIS so I’ve never understood the objection to him.
While season 3 had went with a shocker opening, season 4 takes a more traditional route. The focus seems to have been placed on integrating K-9 into the mix and telling a straightforward yet well executed story, and I think it pulls that off with flying colors. This is the the most balanced and well thought out season opener the Fourth Doctor Adventures has ever had. This continues the quality we saw emerge with season 3 and makes me excited to see what they have in store for us next. If this is the level of storytelling we are going to see this season, I am fully on board with this season and ready to go for a ride!
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For next time:
Check out my previous reviews: