Hello all and welcome back to Big Finishing Move! The lovely little spot of this site where I get to review the audio releases from Big Finish and tell you if they hit the mark or screwed the pooch.
I’m going to keep this opening short as we have so much to cover, but I want to apologize for not having this review out to you guys sooner. A combination of work, health issues, plus the sheer size of this release have pushed this review back way longer than I would have liked. Enough of that, you came here for reviews, not excuses. You want to know if this set, which sees Tom Baker and Lalla Ward together again for the first time under the Big Finish banner as they adapt two novels written by Gareth Roberts. Let’s take a look!
TARDIS Team: The Fourth Doctor, Romana II, and K-9 Mark II
The Romance of Crime:
Out in space doing there thing, the Doctor and Romana find themselves arriving at a space prison. They soon find that the guilty extend well past just the prisoners. Can the TARDIS crew discern who is friend and foe and stop a serious evil from returning from the dead?
This one is the classic “who do you trust, and for how long” type story as all sides both good and evil find themselves taking actions either on purpose or by accident that get in the way of their supposed allies (for that moment). Everybody seems to have an agenda and cannot see past their goal at that time.
One of the main themes in the book is the mistreatment and hatred of others by those who have themselves been victims of prejudice and abuse. Everybody has a chance to break the cycle of abuse but feels the horrors they have suffered somehow justifies their actions against others. Part of this is played straight, but a large portion is played for laughs, pointing to the absurdity of a practice that is anything but funny in real life.
On the performance side of things everybody is rock solid, the actors not only deliver their lines convincingly, but they all hit the mark in making it sound like how they would have done it back during the late 70s. Dragon Age fans might be excited to pick this one up as it features a performance by Miranda Raison (the voice of Cassandra Pentaghast) as one of the major characters.
In my career as a critic (if I can be so bold as to call myself one) I have been dreading the day I would face something like The Romance of Crime, a story that is well written and acted, but leaves me feeling flat. I don’t have any reasonable complaints about this well crafted and executed story other than it just didn’t grab me. It had some good dramatic bits and some fine comedic moments but the piece as a whole just never had me invested at any point. I consider this a failing of the critic, not the art, so I decree this a story that is worth your time, but also one I don’t think I’ll be coming back to anytime soon.
The English Way of Death:
On the run from the Black Guardian, the Doctor has switched off the randomizer and steered the TARDIS for Earth in the year 1930 for what he (and he alone) considers a mission of great importance. He isn’t looking for trouble, but both K-9 and Romana are sure that this point is irrelevant and danger will find him whether he likes it or not. Of course they are proven correct (wouldn’t have much of a story if they were wrong) and the Doctor and his compatriots are soon caught up in a plot involving time travel, the undead, and your usual every day plot to destroy the planet.
This probably the funniest Fourth Doctor audio I’ve ever heard. This story is maggoty (always happy when I can use that term in a positive context) with superb one liners, situational comedy, and more than a few stabs at writers from the author himself. Another plus is it gives each of the three leads something to do. Special note must be given to John Leeson, who gets to take his K-9 voice in a direction we’ve never heard before, much to my interest and delight.
I do have one nitpick though. This story makes use of the word zombie and in actuality fairly consistent with what was considered a zombie (a corpse possessed by dark forces such as black magic) , which was a relatively new concept to widespread western culture by 1930. What isn’t part of the deal is the brain eating stuff, that part of zombie lore came way latter due to George Romero’s films and yet every nobody comments on this deviation from what would have been understood zombie behavior at the time. I know this is a silly complaint and perhaps the book this is based on does touch on this fact, but would it have killed the people at Big Finish to chuck in a throwaway line on the subject so it didn’t have to bug me so?
This is the more solid of the two entries. Everything is just a little clearer and more on point. I do wish they more clearly explained just how Zodaal was able to take over bodies, but as the story goes you just come to except it and move on. This isn’t a story that is deep and trying to point at some greater truth about humanity, it is just a well paced fun romp that knows what it is and is okay with that. If you are okay with that as well you will enjoy picking this up.
While neither of these stories are must haves, the sheer amount of craft, care, and content makes this a rather attractive release. I can’t blame anybody who opts to save their cash and skip this one but I also can’t imagine anybody picking this up being disappointed. If your hungry for Who and have a little extra money lying around, go ahead and grab this one. You’ll be glad you did.
Purchase Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor by Gareth Roberts, Volume 1 Here:
Take note, my good readers, we here at One of Us have our own audio drama series Infinite Variations, as well the spin-off series from The Intergalactic Nemesis entitled Salt. All this is found free on the site so you have no excuse not to check it out!
For next time:
Check out my previous reviews: