The first volume of this series, released at the end of last year, was a critical and commercial success for Big Finish. This second pair of stories (recorded at the same time) is even better.
David Bradley’s take on the First Doctor continues to improve with each outing and he is helped in no small measure by his returning co-stars in Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton), Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright) and Claudia Grant (Susan Foreman). All four actors make their respective roles their own while keeping the essence of the original performances intact.
The two stories that make up this volume are of exceptional quality. In The Invention of Death (written by John Dorney) the Doctor and his crew come across a planet where the child-like inhabitants do not die but the influence of the travellers makes them confront both life and death very quickly. The Barbarians and the Samurai takes the TARDIS crew to ancient Japan where they find themselves in the middle of a plot to murder the Shogun and wrestle power from him.
Both stories are very entertaining and contain strong performances from the supporting cast which includes Tracy Wiles (Sharlan), Michelle Morris (Brenna), Dan Li (Okada Shumei), Andrew Wincott (Casper Knox), Sadao Ueda (Takagi Mamoru), Susan Hingley (Keiko), Jozef Aoki (Toda Eiji/Yoshita Hiroshi) and Christopher Naylor (Captain Hamilton). The largely Japanese cast for the second story is an excellent touch that adds a layer of realism that would most likely have been avoided in the days when the original series was being produced.
The strong directorial hand of Nicholas Briggs keeps the action flowing well and the cast respond well to his ideas. The sound and music by Howard Carter is particularly evocative. An extended interview disc with the cast, crew and writers is included as a bonus and provides much insight into the making of the set.
This volume is an absolute must-listen for fans of the classic serial. Big Finish have lovingly recreated the era whilst still giving it a modern flavour which is never an easy ask.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 10
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: July 2018
RRP: $40 CD, $20 Digital Download