Big Finish dropped a Christmas treat on us to coincide with David Bradley’s First Doctor role in ‘Twice Upon a Time’. But how does the new take on the classic Doctor fare on audio?
Seeing David Bradley appear as the First Doctor in ‘The Doctor Falls’, ahead of his starring role in the Christmas special, was a real treat. So the announcement in September that Bradley would be making the move to Big Finish was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. David brings the twinkle of William Hartnell and is assisted by the superb trio of Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell and Jamie Glover as Susan, Barbara and Ian respectively.
The core spirit of the original TARDIS team is recreated superbly. Grant captures Carole Ann Ford’s portrayal of Susan with all her insecurities and moral certitude. Jemma Powell, now a Big Finish veteran playing Barbara in the Early Adventures, is splendid as the level headed, compassionate history teacher. Jamie Glover, despite sounding different from Ian, nevertheless gets all the right inflections down pat. But let’s look at the story…
The Destination Wars by Matt Fitton
With a new cast taking on established roles, it was vital to have writers who could write a new yet familiar First Doctor story. And Matt Fitton is as dependable as ever to tackle the first audio adventure for David Bradley’s Doctor. The opening story ‘The Destination Wars’ is a solid and enjoyable story from the get-go. With strong, characterised performances from a very good cast, the story truly feel like an artifact of the show’s opening year. Add James Dreyfus as an earlier incarnation of the Master and it gets a subversive new aspect to distinguish it from the Early Adventures. Dreyfus starts out strong as a far more understated Master of Classic Who. Yet he still possesses that air of charming menace essential to any take on the Master; Dreyfus delivers on all fronts. Matt Fitton has wisely avoided trying to create an origin story for the Doctor and Master’s enmity. Despite their early incarnations, there is still history between them that Fitton doesn’t overburden proceedings with. ‘The Destination Wars’ encapsulates the early era of the series without being afraid to try something new. An excellent style to set with the opening gambit.
The Great White Hurricane by Guy Adams
The return of the Hartnell historical! Guy Adams has penned a wonderfully touching tale. But he has also managed to make this adventure totally different to any other pure historical. Adams’ script is riddled with great moments of human drama amidst a very harsh natural event. The sound design in this tale is particularly superb, evoking the scene of 1880s New York with consummate ease! While there are at first some disparate plot threads, they all come together superbly well. David Bradley has some superb shining moments as the First Doctor too. He has totally nailed the irascible but lovable aspects of the First Doctor that we all know and love. Nick Briggs, serving as director, does a particularly fine job here with the difficult soundscape to balance with the actors. The fact that he manages to get a performance that evokes the original cast without being a mere impersonation is testament to his ability as a director.
With a brand new cast standing in for an existing one, the response to this set could easily have backfired at the hands Hartnell fans. But so loving and respectful is this take on the familiar characters that the opposite was true. With a second volume due in July, we can’t wait to hear more from this superb cast. The First Doctor promised to come back one day, and it’s great he’s done it in such a tour de force!
Blogtor Rating: 10/10
1.1 The Destination Wars by Matt Fitton
The TARDIS arrives in a gleaming utopia in the Space Year 2003. Has the Doctor truly brought Ian and Barbara home, to glimpse their future?
The world owes much to its legendary Inventor, and Susan finds herself face to face with the great benefactor. But soon, the time travellers are in a world at war and the Doctor must confront his past.
1.2 The Great White Hurricane by Guy Adams
Rival gangs turn streets into battlegrounds, and the Doctor and his friends are caught in the crossfire. They find themselves separated, and lost in the cold.
As the hunt for a fugitive turns ever more desperate, a blizzard descends. The snow keeps falling. And soon it will prove as deadly as any weapon…
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Matt Fitton, Guy Adams
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
David Bradley (The Doctor), Claudia Grant (Susan), Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright), Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton), James Dreyfus (The Master), Raymond Coulthard (Robac / Servers / Dalmari), Sian Reeves (Tanna), Deli Segal (Reena), Jackson Milner (Patrick), Cory English (Daniel), Carolina Valdes (Rosalita), Ronan Summers (O’Connell), Christopher Naylor (Policeman / Man with Ladder / Gang Member / Henry)
Other roles played by the cast.