REVIEW | Once and Future: Past Lives

Big Finish‘s celebration of Doctor Who‘s sixtieth anniversary begins! Past Lives is the first instalment in the eight-part Once and Future series, which sees the Doctor flung back into his previous bodies by a degeneration weapon, meeting old friends and enemies along the way.

This story sees the Doctor settle in his fourth incarnation (Tom Baker), who remembers that the Meddling Monk (Rufus Hound) had something to do with his degeneration. Tracking this slippery foe to Glastonbury Tor, and then to the Tower of London, the Doctor bumps into Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who find themselves under attack from the crocodilian Hyreth. And that’s not all; Sarah Jane Smith (Sadie Miller) has also been dragged into this debacle, dragged away from the day she left the Doctor to help the Monk steal an alien device from UNIT!

If that sounds like a lot, you’ll be pleased to know that this is actually quite a simple story once all the characters are in place. Writer Robert Valentine gives us lots of fan-pleasing interactions, most notably the Fourth Doctor and Sarah meeting Kate and Osgood for the first time, but makes sure to tell a coherent story which, while a little on the light side, is nonetheless enjoyable to listen to. He also does a good job at introducing the overarching plot of the series, though this isn’t explored much outside of the opening and closing scenes.

As you might expect, Tom Baker is charming as ever in his role as the Doctor: irreverent, madcap and completely alien, but with a wonderful sense of heart that shines through during his reunion with Sarah Jane and his first meeting with Kate and Osgood. Miller, Redgrave and Oliver each bring their a-game, giving performances befitting this landmark adventure. Ewan Bailey also impresses as the villainous Galavaunt and Baravour, while Rufus Hound‘s slightly manic Monk perfectly complements Baker’s wackier Doctor.

Overall, this is a lightweight but fun way to kick off Once and Future, giving us an interesting pairing between the Fourth Doctor and UNIT and a simple-but-effective alien invasion plot. Recommended.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Past Lives is available on CD or as a download from

Once and Future continues in June with The Artist at the End of Time.


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