Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures Vol. 11: Solo, by Big Finish

SCI-FI: A new set of audio stories from the Fourth Doctor Adventures.

Another superb showcase for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor that proves you don’t need a companion to be a successful Doctor!

The venerable Tom Baker once told a producer during his run on Doctor Who in the 1970s that he didn’t need a companion and that he could successfully deliver his dialogue to a cabbage when needed. Thankfully neither the producer back then, nor the producers at Big Finish, decided to test this theory out!

Baker returns for the 11th volume of Big Finish adventures dedicated to the scarfed Fourth Doctor and, whilst he is companion-less for both of these stories, he is certainly not without helpers.

Blood of the Time Lords by Timothy X. Atack sees the Doctor return to Gallifrey in possession of a very powerful book. Wishing to explore its pages further, he takes it to a monastery known as the Recursary—a place where ancient Time Lords go to die. Upon arrival there he soon realises that his old enemy The Master has plans for the Recursary and for Gallifrey itself …

Atack’s script is a reasonably decent romp but lacks in tension for a lot of the early stages and suffers from too many characters vying for the listeners’ attention. In some circumstances a large cast can work well (and Big Finish has proven this on more than one occasion) but in this instance, too many people sound similar to each other and it can be hard to keep up.

All that being said, the cast delivers some solid performances. Baker, of course, relishes every word and makes a meal out of every syllable. He is almost matched in that regard by James Dreyfus as The Master whose reveal may catch some by surprise. Annette Badland (Eminent Sedanya), Susan Kyd (Kodal Thark) and Adrian Lukis (Ansillon) headline an outstanding support cast that work well under the directorship of Nicholas Briggs, whose meticulous attention to detail always raises the quality of the final product.

David Llewellyn’s story, The Ravencliff Witch, is an even more traditional Earth-based story. The Doctor finds himself investigating a power plant near Ravencliff on the English coast. He soon befriends architect Margaret Hopgood and together they uncover a secret to the mysterious sightings of a witch that will have dire consequences for another local resident.

In this story, as in the previous one, the supporting cast are incredibly strong. Nerys Hughes is a welcome addition as Hopgood (and hopefully she will come back for more adventures with the Doctor as she has a good banter with Baker’s Doctor, which is not always easy to achieve). Lucy Pickles (Celia Banks), Deli Segal (Amanda Keynes) and Richard Earl (Gordon Miles) are the pick of the bunch from this cast. Briggs not only directs this but has a Hitchcockian cameo near the beginning.

Jamie Robertson’s music and sound design is exemplary throughout (Toby Hrycek-Robinson also helped on the sound, it must be noted) and the bonus interviews certainly give some insight into the creation of this volume that has strangely sat in the vaults of Big Finish for nearly five years!

Fans of Baker’s Doctor will enjoy at least one (if not both) of these adventures as much as Tom Baker enjoys doing them. We should all be grateful that Big Finish continues to create such wonderful stories for such a tremendous actor to bring to life.   

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

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

Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: March 2022
Approx RRP: $43 CD, $20 Digital Download

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