The Abandoned is one of the more unusual and effective plays to come out of the Tom Baker/Big Finish era with insights into the relationship between the Doctor and Leela as well as some glimpses into the past of the three constants through the series: the Time Lord, the Sevateem warrior… and the TARDIS herself. After listening to it, you may well see Neil Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife in a new light.
The episode is notable for being co-written by Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs, and there’s an emphasis on the psychology of the characters alongside an understandably strong portrayal of Leela, which long-term listeners will expect from the pair. Fairs wrote a number of Companion Chronicles for Jameson’s character, and in interviews, Jameson is always very clear which elements of Leela work best to her mind, and which need exploration.
Fairs also does the sound design, and he and director Ken Bentley lead us into a mad realm which slowly begins to make sense as the story progresses. It’s a script that’s full of different locations (real and imaginary), but it never descends into a chaos that the listener can’t follow.
Stephanie Cole’s Lady Marianna makes a good foil for Baker’s Doctor – hopefully a way will be found for a rematch – and her backstory does answer some of the questions about the TARDIS which still remain, despite the revelations of not just the Gaiman episode and The Name of the Doctor, but also Big Finish’s own Quadrigger Stoyn trilogy last year.
It’s a good story to come at this stage of the season, incorporating some of the themes and ideas which have run through the series, particularly regarding the growth of Leela and her relationship with her past. Appropriately, given its central theme of the power of the imagination, it’s a highly imaginative tale and we have to hope that Jameson and Fairs will give us a further adventure for the Doctor and Leela down the line.
Verdict: A change of pace from recent tales brings the focus inwards on the TARDIS to great effect. Recommended. 9/10