Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Early Adventures: The Secret of Det-Sen, by Big Finish

SCI-FI: When the Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrive in the Himalayas, they have no idea that they are about to set off a chain of events that will haunt the Doctor throughout his many lives.

A fun story that rewards long-time fans of the show as well creates a great entry point for newer listeners.

The latest volume from the Early Adventures series from Big Finish answers a question that was first asked by avid viewers in 1967: “How did the Doctor come to have the Ghanta of Det-Sen?” This question was asked in the Second Doctor story The Abominable Snowmen, which is often considered a classic of the era (despite five of its six episodes no longer being in the BBC archives and existing as an audio recording or fan reconstruction).

Set during the era of the First Doctor while he was travelling with his companions Stephen Taylor and Dodo Chaplet, this story by Andy Frankham-Allen captures the mystery and isolation of the classic serial it is a prequel to. Set in the Himalayas, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in the company of spiritual guru Oddiyana and his travelling companion Pema. Stephen is very suspicious of the guru whilst the Doctor is not so cautious. After they arrive at the monastery of Det-Sen, they must help defend a group of pacifist monks from scheming bandits. But why are the bandits so interested in the treasures of Det-Sen, what is Oddiyana’s connection to this place and what part do the nearby Yeti have to play in all this?

The first half of this story moves along at slow pace but feels very correct for the setting of the story. By the time the action ramps up in the second half, you have become quite invested in the characters being portrayed. This is a credit to Frankham-Allen who clearly has a strong love of the original serial and has a keen eye for continuity.

The small cast is led by original actor Peter Purves portraying not only his original character of Steven Taylor but doing a more than passable William Hartnell/First Doctor (as well as narrating the story). The octogenarian Purves’ voice shows little signs of his age and his Steven still sounds as fresh as it did in 1965.

Playing Dodo in place of the late Jackie Lane is Lauren Cornelius, and while she valiantly attempts to bring Dodo to life, she comes across as sounding more like the current iteration of the Doctor as played by Jodie Whittaker rather than the Dodo that fans know. This can be very distracting at times and pulls the listener out of the illusion. Generally, Big Finish has done an admirable job in recasting roles when necessary, however, through no fault of the actress who undoubtedly is trying her hardest, this is one that does not quite work as successfully as it could have.

The supporting cast of Paul Courtenay Hyu (Oddiyana), Kerry Gooderson (Pema), Jamie Zubairi (Dorje) and Jeremy Ang Jones (Norbu) do a wonderful job with their characters under the direction of Lisa Bowerman who gets the best out of her cast. Toby Hrycek-Robinson does an admirable job with his incidental music and with the sound design as well.

The set also contains a music suite as well as interviews with the cast and crew.

This is a very enjoyable set that helps close the gap on an unanswered question for over 55 years. Fans of this era will get a kick out of hearing this Doctor/Companion pairing for the first time in audio form (even if one of the voices isn’t quite right) and newer fans just discovering this era may also get much out of this.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Distributed by: Big Finish
Released: August 2021
Approx RRP: $28 CD, $20 Digital Download

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

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