The 200th main range audio from Big Finish (not by any stretch of the imagination their 200th Doctor Who story – judging by the piles of CDs on the shelves behind me they must be heading for more like their 800th by now!) is a very clever combination of story tropes from both the First and the Fifth Doctors, with Eddie Robson’s script nailing the different eras’ strengths and weaknesses, and providing not just the “regulars” (Peter Davison, Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien) with plenty to do, but building a credible world around them.
Barnaby Edwards has assembled a very powerful cast, with Lysette Anthony’s Sophia, Giles Watling’s Belisarius, and Tony Millan’s Procopius and Yazud standing out (I didn’t realise Millan was voicing both the roles until listening to the extras). The story mixes the comedy of some of the Hartnell historicals (notably The Romans and The Time Meddler) with the more serious drama of the others, providing the cast with plenty to work with, and as the story progresses, the difference in the Doctor at its centre becomes increasingly apparent – and indeed critical to the schemes of its protagonist.
If you’ve got this far in the review, hopefully you’ve already listened to the play, but if not, then skip to the next paragraph to avoid spoilers (most appropriately, given the most recent Big Finish news!). Graeme Garden is back, reprising his role from the Eighth Doctor stories as the Meddling Monk, who has been responsible for the skips in the Doctor’s timeline in the most recent tales. Garden has a very firm grasp of the character (as his interview, rightly given prominence in the extras, reveals), and perhaps this, more than his earlier appearances, once and for all destroys the theory that the Master and the Monk were one and the same. It’s just a shame that despite careful filleting of his appearance from the Big Finish website, it’s listed clearly on the castlist on the CD – he could have been listed as Quentin, surely, or the same trick used as on The Triumph of Sutekh for the appearance of [redacted].
When Big Finish started producing Doctor Who tales back in the mists of time, we knew that they were tales being created by fans for fans to the highest possible standard; sure, there have been the occasional missteps in the main range across the years, but it’s rightly been the flagship line for the company, and all involved with this 200th tale can feel proud of their work continuing that tradition. Roll on the next 200…
Verdict: It’s not a self-congratulatory tale to mark the 200th release, but a good story well told – in the best traditions of Big Finish. 10/10