Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The First Doctor Adventures Volume 01

Is it 2018 already? wow 2017 just sped by didn’t it and one of the last releases of 2017 becomes my first review of 2018 the much anticipated releases of The First Doctor Adventures Volume 1. Now then, if you don’t know already Big Finish have done something  very brave with this set, rather than casting Carole Ann Ford As Susan & William Russel as Ian and doing this Companion Chronicles or Early Adventures style they have recast using the team from An Adventure In Space and Time so sit back, relax and enjoy David Bradley as The Doctor, Jamie Glover as Ian Chesterton, Jemma Powell as Barbara Wright & Claudia Grant as Susan. But does it work? Well the answer is a resounding YES, not because they are dead ringers for the originals but because they are NOT playing Hartnell playing The Doctor or Hill playing Barbara but they are playing the characters of The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan from the page, interpreted from the script not from the performances we have seen before – yes there are similarities but the roles are the Time and Space casts to own for themselves and boy do they do it well.
Of course I did find myself comparing with the original cast in the first few minutes but soon got used to the new voices playing old favourites much aided by having see Bradley play the First Doctor in the Christmas Special on TV a few days prior. But performances are only one of the ingredients that make a production successful there are also the scripts, the direction and the music – well you will pleased to read that they are all straight out of Season One the “Sci-Fi” is very 1960′s I can imagine the cast all in silver jumpsuits in 60’s style bubblegum futuristic cities and the historical is very historical in that it follows all the rules of the Hartnell era historical in which events conspire to separate our heroes it really is authentic 1960’s early Who and this first volume is made up of two stories:
1.1 The Destination Wars by Matt Fitton
Starting off with a Sci-Fi story The Doctor has seemingly brought Ian and Barbara to their own future, but we soon discover that they have arrived in the Space Year 2003 and not the actual year 2003 and the planet they have arrived on is called Destination and not Earth at all, but it does owe a lot to Earth History and its mysterious benefactor who is seen once every decade or so known only as “The Inventor” (James Dreyfus) is his rule as benign as it seems? And scratching the surface of this futuristic utopia there is something ugly and xenophobic about the seemingly enlightened futuristic population, a dark secret at the heart of their society. An old fashioned story with a very modern moral stance and lots of secrets from the Doctor and Susan’s past that come back to haunt them – as I previously stated the new regulars inhabit the roles fully never lapsing into impersonation or caricature but playing the character’s as written and James Dreyfus as The Inventor steals every scene he is in, the less you know about him the more surprising his role in the story is so DO NOT read the cast list as it contains major spoilers. Also authentic to the era this story ends on a cliffhanger to the next one.
1.2 The Great White Hurricane by Guy Adams
And ladies and gentlemen we have a bit of a classic on our hands. I much lament the loss of the “pure historical” from the series as it gives the writers the opportunity to tell stories as good as this one. Set in an historical event I had absolutely no prior knowledge of more details HERE – our heroes arrive in New York 1888 where unbeknownst to them the Great White Hurricane is about to strike – Ian is shot in the head, Susan is kidnapped by a gang member and the Doctor is given a night in the cells for his arrogance towards the local constabulary and then in the local hospital with a recovering Ian, Barbara sees the date on a newspaper and being a History teacher knows what is coming and what follows is a desperate attempt to get back to the TARDIS by all of our heroes following different paths as the winds get stronger and the snow moves in to lay siege to the city they must fight the elements and not let the gangs that rule the streets get the better of them. There is a very real sense of desperation, of the ordeal that our heroes are suffering caught up in events that they really have no control over, with no “villain” as such apart from the forces of fate and nature – the pacing is superb and the four episodes just fly by, its real seat edge stuff and following the early ethos of the show was educational too. Superb.
A very brave move by Big Finish that has paid dividends – authenticity from there scripts, professionalism in the new interpretation of the leads, pacy direction and excellent sound design, I cannot wait volume 2 to find out how things proceed. 9/10.