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The Fourth Doctor and Leela are back for four new audio adventures in The Fourth Doctor Adventures: Series 10. Today, we’ll take a look at the first two stories in the series, released both individually, and together in Volume 1. Read on for our thoughts!
“The World Traders” by Guy Adams
Set in 21st century London, The World Traders by Guy Adams sees the Doctor and Leela become involved with the mysterious Amapan Investments after the TARDIS goes missing. Joining with a plucky young journalist, the two soon discover that the company is being run by the alien Usurians (first seen in 1977 story The Sun Makers), who have big plans for planet Earth…
As Tom Baker points out in the behind the scenes feature, this is, in essence, a story all about greed. Through Amapan Investments and the Usurians, Adams executes a trenchant critique of capitalism, which both makes for a thought-provoking listen and gives the story a decidedly modern flavour. I particularly enjoyed the way Adams uses Leela, whose primitive society is diametrically opposed to capitalism, to explore these themes. Socialist Leela is definitely not something I was ever expecting to see (hear?), but I’m all for it!
The Doctor and Leela are joined on this adventure by Emma Fremantle (Sara Powell), a journalist who is investigating Amapan Industries. She’s one of the most well-written and compelling side characters I’ve heard, and a perfect way to ground the story in the real world, an absolute must given the themes it explores. The story also features Siân Phillips as the villainous Director, the perfect foil for the Fourth Doctor and a role which she plays with audible relish.
Jamie Robertson‘s sound design in this episode is a little more understated than in The Day of the Comet, but is still just as effective. From the sounds of modern London to the roar of a dinosaur, he brings Adams’ script to life perfectly.
Dealing with interesting themes, but also unreservedly comic and exciting, The World Traders is the perfect way to open this new series of Fourth Doctor Adventures. Its first half is definitely stronger than its second but, overall, this is a great story. Recommended.
“The Day of the Comet” by Jonathan Morris
The second story in the set is The Day of the Comet, by Jonathan Morris, which sees the Doctor and Leela arrive on a planet in imminent danger of destruction from the titular comet. Unfortunately, I found the script quite weak, not really taking advantage of the premise, particularly with regards to character moments, and ultimately devolving into a bit of a runaround.
There are also some major tonal issues in the script. In the behind the scenes feature, there’s a lot of talk about this being a “dark” story, but it’s really not much darker than your average Doctor Who episode. Sure, the central premise of a society facing destruction isn’t the cheeriest idea, but the actual implications of this really aren’t delved into all that much. Instead, we get jokes; endless, unfocussed running around and two giant frogs as the main villains of the piece.
The only properly dark things that happen in the episode are the horrifying deaths of Tynax and Corsha, who fall into lava and get blown up respectively, and even these are completely tonally undercut. Neither of them are mentioned again after they die, which is strange given that Corsha is one of the main characters, while their death scenes are followed by a jaunty xylophone riff as Leela gets into a fight with one of the villains! Talk about tonal whiplash!
The guest cast are, by and large, quite strong. Janet Henfrey stars as the genial Verkuvia, who spends much of the story with the Doctor and is a perfect foil for him, while Sophia Carr-Gomm is convincing as ill-fated Corsha. Sadly, Joanna Hole doesn’t quite convince as the villainous Tynax, and Jon Culshaw, while an undeniably talented voice artist, falters somewhat in his dual role as Sullerman and Massey, who sound far too much alike: a major issue given that the two characters actually meet and have a conversation.
Overall, this is unfortunately a fairly weak story. It’s certainly nothing offensive, and it’s clear that the writer and actors have tried hard to make it work, but, for me, it didn’t quite gel and sits firmly below average. Not recommended.
All in all, this is a boxset of two halves, starting strong with The World Traders and then ending with the noticeably weak The Day of the Comet. Because of this, I’d probably ultimately advise not buying the set as a whole, and just picking up the individual download release of The World Traders. Mediocre.
The Fourth Doctor Adventures: Series 10, Volume 1 is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
The World Traders and The Day of the Comet are available individually as downloads only
The Fourth Doctor Adventures: Series 10 continues next month with Volume 2
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