Yesterday, Big Finish released their first audio drama recorded entirely in lockdown: Shadow of the Sun, by Robert Valentine. Of course, Big Finish often record parts of their releases remotely, as certain actors live outside the country and can’t join the rest of the cast, but this is the first time that the entire cast and crew recorded outside of the studio.
Brilliantly, the audio quality is exactly the same as any other release; had it not been announced that this story was recorded in lockdown, there’s absolutely no way I’d have been able to tell! Congratulations are certainly in order for director Nicholas Briggs and producer David Richardson for making such a strong story under such difficult circumstances.
Now, onto the story itself. Shadow of the Sun sees the Doctor (Tom Baker), Leela (Louise Jameson) and K9 (John Leeson) arrive on a luxury space liner populated by the members of the Helios Society, who believe that, at the heart of the sun, lies a Promised Land. As such, the ship’s passengers are heading straight towards a fiery death, and nothing the Doctor says will convince them to turn around! It’s a great concept for a story: thought-provoking and exciting in equal measure, with a pleasingly dark ending that shows that the Doctor can’t always win.
Valentine has a strong grasp on the main characters, writing some great scenes, particularly between the Doctor and Leela, that truly feel authentic to the era. Bolstered by fantastic-as-usual performances from Baker and Jameson, the script is a great showing for these two characters, with the listener coming away from the piece with the impression that both the Doctor and Leela have changed somewhat as a result of this adventure.
The guest cast all put in great performances too; I was particularly impressed with Fenella Woolgar‘s portrayal of Lady Maline Rigel-Smythe; she gets to show lots of sides to her character. Barnaby Edwards also does a great job as the ship Autopilot: sinister and funny in equal measure.
All in all, Shadow of the Sun is a strong story with some great performances, and, recorded entirely in isolation, a brilliant feat of modern technology. The central plot is particularly pertinent given the current pandemic, dealing as it does with a group of people whose ignorance of science ends up putting everyone in danger, which makes for a shockingly topical listen too. Add to all this some great sound design and music from Toby Hrycek-Robinson and Jamie Robertson, and Shadow of the Sun comes highly recommended.
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