The latest batch of adventures for Paul McGann’s Doctor sees him still travelling with Nicola Walker’s Liv Chenka, as the TARDIS is pulled to Gallifrey. We know why he’s been recalled thanks to an interesting (and surprising) pre-credits sequence that features the Doctor but, to misquote the Eighth, maybe not the one we were expecting. It’s one among many nice touches scattered throughout the set that show the attention to detail that producer David Richardson and script editor/director have given to the production.
The set kicks off with Matt Fitton’s Deadly Assasin-esque The Eleven, which introduces the titular villain, a Time Lord who is cursed with his previous personae still being present in his mind. The idea of multiple regenerations of a Time Lord being present physically together was the mainstay of Lawrence Miles’ Interference novels (sixteen years old now!), but for audio, particularly, this twist on the concept works very well – at least in the very capable “hands” of Mark Bonnar. Each personality is distinct – so it’s a bit like those bits in Castrovalva where Davison’s Doctor briefly regressed to his earlier selves, but done on a much, much larger scale. Full marks to Bonnar for a terrific performance which underpins the entire set.
The second story introduces Hattie Morahan’s Helen Sinclair, a historian whose talents are not fully recognised in 1960s Britain. John Dorney gives us a very Hammer horror take on the possession carried out by The Red Lady of the title, with David Yelland put through the wringer as her boss.
Helen has no real option but to join the Doctor and Liv in their quest for the Eleven, travelling with them to Florence and a meeting with John Woodvine as Galileo. Marc Platt’s tale is my favourite of the set, mixing historical, science fiction and horror elements with panache.
The finale, Edward Collier’s The Satanic Mill, takes the travellers to an artificial satellite where a final reckoning should take place – although given this is just the first of four box sets, you can guess that not everything is tied up as neatly as it could be. There are overtones of the original plan for the third Alien film about the set-up (the one in which McGann appeared), and a good use of characters established in the earlier stories.
The character of Helen is a good foil for Liv, and the scenes between Morahan and Walker sparkle, although I’m hoping we get more between the Doctor and Helen in the succeeding sets.
Verdict: A new companion, a very cleverly-conceived villain and cracking scripts – the recipe for another highly enjoyable set. 9/10