A wonderful tribute to the first era of the legendary series.
Big Finish continue their excellent run of stories featuring the First Doctor and his original crew, as voiced by David Bradley, Jamie Glover, Claudia Grant and Jemma Powell (playing the Doctor, Ian, Susan and Barbara respectively). This fourth volume continues the pattern established in earlier volumes of having a science fiction story and a pure historical story each divided into four 30-minute episodes.
Return to Skaro, by Andrew Smith, sees the TARDIS crew land on the Dalek home planet 50 years after their initial encounter. At first it appears as though the Thals (who fought the Daleks originally) have started to evolve as a civilisation and that the Daleks are long dead. The Doctor and his crew are soon to discover that neither of these things are true.
Last of the Romanovs, by Jonathan Barnes, sees the crew land in Ekaterinburg early in the twentieth century. No sooner have they left the TARDIS then they find themselves caught up in one of the worst periods of Russian history and the crew must make a choice between leaving history alone or changing it for the better.
The four leads do an exceptional job with their parts (although Grant’s interpretation of Susan is coming more shrill and higher pitched with each passing volume). As with earlier sets, Bradley does a commendable job of the gruff First Doctor and is starting to make his characterisation a very legitimate alternative to the original. It helps that both scripts are well written and very evocative of the era of that program. Barnes’ story does however, tend to drag in spots when it seems the crew are all in the same house and not bumping into one another or indeed any other member of the royal family apart from two of them!
The supporting cast are generally well cast with highlights being Tracy Wiles (Tryana), Alisdair Simpson (Damadus), Nigel Hastings (Kreos), Dan Starkey (Yakov Yurovsky), Alex Tregear (Anastasia Romanov) and Leighton Pugh (Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov/Thomas Preston). Special mention must go to the always-brilliant Nicholas Briggs for supplying his exceptional Dalek voices once again for this volume.
Howard Carter provides the sound and music mix for this release and it is of the excellent standard we have come to expect from the Big Finish studios. It complements the tight direction by Ken Bentley which always seems to be on-point and interesting.
Bonus material includes two suites of music from each story and interviews with the cast and crew.
This is a wonderful set for those that can get past different voices performing their beloved characters. This series continues to punch above its weight and there is room for further adventures if the need is there. Let us hope that we are blessed with more adventures from this TARDIS crew.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: March 2020
Approx RRP: $49 CD, $20 Digital Download