REVIEW | The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Nine

It’s time for our second dose of Doctor number four this year, as Tom Baker returns for three new audio adventures in The Nine! Still travelling solo following the departure of Sarah Jane Smith, this boxset sees the Doctor encounter mysterious tanks on the front lines of the First World War, Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake and, as the title of the set suggests, the insane kleptomanic Time Lord known as the Nine! Those are three very intriguing premises, but are the stories any good? Read on to find out!

1. “The Dreams of Avarice” by Guy Adams

The Nine, an insane kleptomaniac Time Lord, is on the loose, and plotting his biggest heist yet! Joining with disgruntled Detective Inspector Alan Probert, the Doctor must track down his old enemy before the planet Luxuriana falls prey to his greed. What does the Nine want with the planet’s legendary God Crystal? And what will happen when he tries to steal it?

The Dreams of Avarice is a fun, frothy script from Guy Adams which, while certainly an entertaining listen, struggles in that it’s not very interesting in terms of plot, giving us a fairly uncreative, by-the-books Doctor Who story. The Nine is a character we’ve heard from many times before and, while well-performed by the fantastic John Heffernan, this story really doesn’t do anything new with him. This is the character’s first story where he’s not overshadowed by other elements, like the Doom Coalition arc, the Eleven or the Fifth Doctor’s first meeting with Jenny, and yet Adams doesn’t take advantage of this at all, refusing to delve into his character any further than the fact that ‘he likes to steal things and kill people’.

One of the story’s successes is the partnership between the Doctor and Probert (Richard Dixon). As stated in the behind the scenes feature, it’s not often that the Fourth Doctor is paired with a male companion, so it’s nice to hear a bit of a different dynamic to usual: a dynamic bolstered by Baker and Dixon’s strong chemistry. While Probert is pretty two-dimensional on the page (we literally learn nothing about him except that he’s a policeman), Dixon’s performance helps to make him seem more well-rounded.

The cast is rounded off by Ronni Ancona, who reprises the role of Thana, who debuted in 2019’s The Legacy of Time (review here). While her performance is strong, and her character is probably the best-served by Adams’ script, the choice to have her double up as the Mayor of Glimmer while barely even changing her voice was not the best idea.

Overall, The Dreams of Avarice is a very average story, and the weakest so far of this year’s Fourth Doctor Adventures. With some more focus on the Nine and Probert, and a less sluggish plot, this could have been something special, but as it stands, it’s pretty disposable.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

2. “Shellshock” by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris

The Doctor arrives behind German lines during the First World War and falls in with an officious army nurse, Hanna Schumann, whose patients are suffering from shellshock… and terrifying nightmares of being buried alive. The Doctor knows it’s impossible that so many people might share the same dream, but with the warmongering General Reinhardt on his case, the sinister Doctor Sturm employing anachronistic methods to cure shellshock and futuristic tanks rolling out across the Western Front, will he be able to solve the mystery before it’s too late?

Right from the off, Shellshock stands out from The Dreams of Avarice in that it’s much darker in tone, more focused on telling an interesting story than being a fun romp. That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom- with Tom Baker on hand, that could never be the case- but it’s nice to have a story which treats itself a bit more seriously. It’s also nice to have a darker Fourth Doctor story which isn’t gothic-inspired; instead of spooks and scares, Shellshock‘s darkness comes from its exploration of topics such as PTSD, war and violence, which make for some really interesting commentary on the First World War which, if a little simplistic, is at least thought-provoking.

Tom Baker is joined here by Alicia Ambrose-Bayly, who plays Nurse Schumann. Ambrose-Bayly is excellent in the role, not only executing an impressive German accent, but making her character sympathetic without necessarily having a huge amount of standout scenes. As with Probert in the previous story, Schumann is a nice twist on the usual companion formula: not only is she a pleasing blend of Sarah Jane’s dauntlessness, Leela’s fierceness and Romana’s pragmatism, which makes for a great dynamic with the Doctor, but her status as a part of the German army allows us to see the First World War from a different perspective than that which we usually might view it.

The story also stars Finlay Robertson (Larry Nightingale in TV story Blink), Nicholas Asbury and Christopher Naylor, who play a whole host of other characters. Robertson’s Hans Hoffman is the standout, a poetry-writing lieutenant with a soft spot for Nurse Schumann, though Asbury and Naylor also put in strong performances, even if their various characters are slightly hard to differentiate at times. Interestingly, when Naylor was playing the British Captain Starling, all I could hear was Harry Sullivan, which just goes to show how brilliant he is in that role; he may only have been in a handful of stories as Harry, but Naylor has clearly already made an impression on me!

Overall, Shellshock is a strong story from start to finish, taking a well-trodden part of history and doing something different with it. While the guest characters (aside from Nurse Schumann) are a little one-dimensional and the resolution is slightly baffling, this is a great change of tone and pace for the Fourth Doctor range. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


While Dreams of Avarice is slightly weaker than your usual Big Finish script, it’s still an enjoyable listen. Add to that the strength of Shellshock, and this boxset comes recommended.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Nine is available on CD or as a download from

The Dreams of Avarice and Shellshock are available individually as downloads


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