Before David Tennant took on the mantle as one of the most popular actors to play the Doctor, there was – and still is – Tom Baker. For five years now, Baker has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts thanks to a cameo appearance in the television show’s 50th Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor and also through this series of audio adventures from Big Finish.
Many of the earlier Fourth Doctor adventures suffered from writers not really understanding the era properly but there is no such problem in this set. This volume of four stories start the seventh series of Fourth Doctor adventures. In this series, he is joined by his companion Leela (Louise Jameson sounding exactly the same as she did when playing the role on television 40 years ago) and K-9 (voiced by the ageless John Leeson).
Director Nicholas Briggs really knows this era well and it shows in the way he lets Baker’s Doctor flourish and shine. The behind-the-scenes featurettes show a director willing to listen to the advice of the incomparable Baker and the results speak for themselves.
The first story in this set, The Sons Of Kaldor, is written by former Dr Who writer Andrew Smith and is a direct sequel to the classic Baker story, The Robots Of Death. The Doctor and Leela are many years in the future when a civil war is raging on the planet Kaldor and the Doctor and Leela have to work out which is the right side to be on. It is as atmospheric and chilling as the original was. Toby Hadoke and John Dorney bring menace to their roles as the robots whilst the humans are well played by Martha Cope (Commander Lind) and Oliver Dimsdale (Rebben Tace).
The next adventure (and the best of these four) is The Crowmarsh Experiment. Written by David Llewelyn, it is an eerie tale where Leela finds herself in an alternative reality where she is a doctor who has retreated into a fantasy world where she plays a savage called Leela who travels with someone called The Doctor (who incidentally looks like another doctor she works with). This one would have been an outstanding choice to have been made in the seventies and may have ranked up there with some of the creepiest material done during that time. Cathy Dyson (Jennifer) and Dan Starkey (Linus Strang) are the stand outs in the cast and both Jameson and Baker relish the brilliant script and slightly different tone to the rest of their adventures.
The final two adventures, The Mind Runners and The Demon Rises, are a linked pair of stories set in a dystopian world not unlike that of Blade Runner. The Doctor, Leela and K-9 investigate murders that seemingly look like suicides and, as they dig further, they discover dark secrets that a society would rather keep hidden. It is a far more traditional tale and, thanks to the great sound and music by Jamie Robertson, it moves along at a cracking pace. The leads have a great time with another solid script (this time by John Dorney) and are again well directed by Briggs. It’s good to see Josette Simon (most notable from her stint on Blake’s 7) come back to acting with her role as Taraneh after some time away in politics.
Fans of Tom Baker’s Doctor will not be disappointed with this batch of releases. It captures the era well and continues the outstanding work of Big Finish in keeping the Doctor Who interest burning until the new TV series airs in September.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: January 2018
RRP: $43 (CD), $20 (Download)