Renowned by some as the best of Gareth Roberts’ trilogy of novels featuring this TARDIS crew, The English Way of Death is an excellent pastiche of the stories to be found at the end of the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who, before things got all sombre and serious with the arrival of John Nathan-Turner as producer. You can judge the quality of the original novel yourself easily enough now, as it’s just been reprinted by BBC Books!
John Dorney’s adaptation has, of necessity, had to prune certain elements, but, as with The Romance of Crime, he’s retained everything that you’re likely to remember from the book, or its various write-ups. The scene that appeared on the cover of the original Virgin book is present, and the repartee between the Doctor, Romana, K9 and the various other time travellers who have made this genteel part of Time their home sparkles in Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and John Leeson’s delivery.
There’s quite a few of the “Big Finish repertory company” involved with this story, but the reason they are invited back regularly is, presumably, because of the variety of options they can present for the directors, and Nick Briggs encourages performances that embrace the deliberate caricature of the characters while still retaining credibility. Terrence Hardiman as Stackhouse in particular gets some quite outlandish dialogue to deliver (up there with the Valeyard’s catharsis of spurious morality) but you never feel things have gone too far over the top.
If you’ve bought the Limited Collectors’ Edition, you get a fifth disc in addition to the two for The Romance of Crime and The English Way of Death, with the behind the scenes material. Those who have wondered about the logistics of the recording can put the pieces together if they choose, but it’s a delight to hear Baker, Ward and Leeson clearly enjoying the recordings.
Verdict: A tremendously fun tale wonderfully brought to life. 9/10