Everybody knows about The Masters of Luxor. It’s the one that wasn’t working so it was replaced by Terry Nation’s The Dead Planet (or The Mutants, or The Daleks, or whatever the hell it’s being “officially” referred to as this week!!). So obviously it wasn’t any good, and anyway, it was all about religion, or souls, or the TARDIS being able to fly. Rubbish, obviously.
Except it isn’t. Those of us with long memories will recall the Titan script book – the only one of that range that was really worth having, if anyone’s thinking of trying to find the others – which presented Coburn’s script with some editing. Now Big Finish have finally done the obvious at the end of this third season of Lost Stories, and gone back to the start of the show and given us the way in which Doctor Who might have progressed.
Comparing Nigel Robinson’s version of The Masters of Luxor with the script book may be interesting – he admits freely that he’s toned down certain elements which might not play so well in 2012. To me that seems to be defeating the object of doing these: if you’re going to delve into the history of Doctor Who and show it in all its contemporary glory (eg with the rampant sexism of The Prison in Space), then putting a 21st century filter on it doesn’t make sense. Ironically in doing this, he may have removed some of the reasons why the story didn’t go forward in 1963 because, although it could do with some tightening up here and there (a four episode version could cover all the same beats), this is a good outing for the first Doctor and his companions. And the often-derided “hover mode” for the TARDIS? Er, Fury from the Deep or The Runaway Bride anyone?
As far as the 2012 version goes, this is streets ahead of Farewell, Great Macedon in terms of the way the script is structured: the interspersing of voices feels more natural, and Lisa Bowerman’s direction and creation of the soundscape means that you often feel as if the Doctor and Ian are chatting, even when William Russell is voicing both parts (the same applies for Barbara and Susan with Carole Ann Ford). With Ian Levine’s reconstruction of the four-part Planet of Giants out at the same time as this, and William Russell’s reading of The Aztecs novelisation, we’re getting a huge swathe of adventures for this crew all at once, all told in different ways, and all equally working.
Verdict: Some Lost Stories should stay lost. Others needed to see the light of day – and unless someone finds Mac Hulke’s scripts for The Hidden Planet, I doubt we’ll hear any other lost tales of the calibre of The Masters of Luxor again for this TARDIS crew. 8/10