The First Doctor, Vicki and Steven meet Jane Austen; the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe encounter an old enemy; The Third Doctor and Liz Shaw investigate missing scientists, while the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive at a health spa with a horrifying secret…
The talking book idea is not a new one for Doctor Who but Big Finish have used it as an intriguing way of presenting adventures for the first four Doctors. A narrated story, with one guest actor, music and sound effects could easily go wrong, but on the whole so far, so good.
Frostfire gets the range off to a terrific start, as Maureen O’Brien returns to the character of Vicki for the first time in 40 years. It’s a time loop story with a nice twist to it, playing off the two periods in which it’s set. O’Brien captures the querulous tone so beloved of the First Doctor, while adding nicely to our understanding of what happened to Vicki after she left the Doctor in The Myth Makers. Not forgetting the historical bent of the early adventures, the Doctor and his friends meet Jane Austen, although her literary output doesn’t seem to have been affected.
Fear of the Daleks, unfortunately, is the weakest of the four. This is no reflection on Wendy Padbury and Nicholas Briggs who try their best with the material, but it sounds as if the author’s recollection of the Troughton years is of pure melodrama. The Doctor doesn’t act in character, although Padbury gets his voice just right, particularly in terms of some of the little inflections that Troughton used.
In The Blue Tooth, Caroline John, who last played Liz Shaw in the PROBE series of direct-to-video adventures in the Nineties, narrates a tale which initially promises to explain why Liz left the Doctor’s side – a gap within the TV series continuity already filled by a number of novels. Unfortunately that element seems to have been forgotten by the end, although Liz has been put through the wringer in a new Cyberconversion process that involves an unusual tooth filling mixture. John’s recreation of Liz and the Doctor are fine but her pacing sometimes seems a little off, and there’s not the air of tension that some of the scenes need.
Lalla Ward, on the other hand, has had plenty of opportunity to hone her portrayal of Romana, with numerous appearances for Big Finish, particularly in the Gallifrey mini-series. Working from a great script by Jonathan Morris, she draws the listener in, and it’s noticeable that a complete episode of The Beautiful People can go by without the Doctor’s presence yet the listener doesn’t feel his absence.
VERDICT: For the most part, an enjoyable trip back through time.
Fear of the Daleks: 4/10
Blue Tooth: 6/10
Beautiful People: 8/10