If you’ve ever wondered what the TARDIS was like just after Tegan arrived then ‘The Fifth Doctor Box Set’ will fill in the gaps.
5.1 Psychodrome by Jonathan Morris
The travellers are settling into the TARDIS and each other but Tegan is keen to get back to Heathrow. She has a flight to catch! Nyssa and Tegan make tentative steps towards friendship but Adric is isolated as the cleverest boy in the class, if not in the TARDIS. Each displays a level of insecurity and top of that list is the newly minted Fifth Doctor, fresh from sacrificing his Fourth incarnation
Landing on a mysterious planet, the Doctor and Adric, like schoolboys, rush out to explore leaving the door wide open and Nyssa and Tegan. Nothing is as it seems as the landscape outside and the people they meet are somehow intriguingly familiar. What follows tests the travellers and makes them address just who they are and why they travel with each other.
This story by Jonathan Morris also forms a great introduction to the travelling companions and the Fifth Doctor and for those who have perhaps never tried Big Finish. Having three companions always seemed to be a struggle in the TV series but here we get a real sense of developing relationships and how each person brings different aspects to the group. It is very driven by character and how the writer is able to make each one sympathetic when the original portrayal in the TV version often came across as abrupt and underwritten. We learn about Nyssa’s grief over the loss of her father and the arrival of the Master who took his place and the subsequent loss of the planet of Traken. We also get some insight into the insecurity of Tegan and her own loss of her aunt who was also killed by the Master. Adric returns here to take his rightful place in the TARDIS and again he is portrayed not just as spoilt child but someone who has a sense of adventure and just a child looking for a home. All the misfits find a place in the TARDIS and the Doctor, the biggest misfit of all, takes them under his wing.
5.2The Iteration Of I by John Dorney
Adric is convinced he can operate the TARDIS with his supreme mathematical knowledge and, unsurprisingly, Tegan’s planned return to Heathrow is aborted once again. Landing on a cliff above the wide blue ocean on Fleming’s Island means that the travellers must seek help in the old house nearby. The house has its own problems, starting with a historical murder and continuing with tales of missing people.
As soon as they enter the apparently empty mansion, Nyssa receives a kind of physic shock and the others leave her to rest while they explore. Unsurprisingly, they meet some other occupants who are also quite concerned about what is happening. A year ago, a cult bought the house cheaply but there were twenty of them and they are nowhere to be found. Jerome Khan (Joseph Radcliffe) has reported his girlfriend missing to the Garda and the local bobby, Andrew Macklin (Robert DeValley), has brought him to the island. Perhaps the Doctor can help solve a mystery of a murder in a locked room or perhaps Adric can learn to operate a 1980s calculator. Who can say?
Again, this has great potential as our initial impressions are taken over by quite another story. There are some little jokes peppered through the tale and everyone jumps into this with relish. It also has a direct nod to the classic 50s film ‘Forbidden Planet’. It’s great to have Adric back and on good form. I can see him polishing his badge as we speak.
I’m only a little bit concerned that the travellers, particularly Tegan know more about the technology than is likely for the time, she hasn’t been in the TARDIS that long. In the 80s, only long-haired programmers had anything to do with computers. Adric seems to have an opinion on whether someone would lock their house in a remote area and knows what a radio looks like and he’s from another planet.
Each of these series has four episodes, so there is plenty of time to develop the plot and enjoy the odd cliff-hanger (a real one!) as well. The music has been pared back to the electronic era and strangely is not annoying at all. You can also listen to the music as an extra. It is less muscular than the current series but much more ‘spacey’. ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1980s was competing with many shows with a bigger budget and synthesisers were becoming a part of popular music. So although we might think it a bit cheesy now, it is probably era-centric. This newly created suite captures that feel of think of things like Jeff Wayne’s ‘War Of The Worlds’, ‘Space: 1999’ and you might well be taken with this.
I liked both of these stories and it was good to hear some of the adventures that the motley crew got up to between ‘Logopolis’ and other TV tales. Adric is a little huskier than I remember but it’s good to hear the team back and bickering. There are lots of laughs amid the serious stuff, too.
(pub: Big Finish. 5 CDs 300 minute story. Price: CD: £30.00 (UK), Download: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-340-5)
cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse,
Psychodrome: Robert Whitelock, Phil Mulryne, Camilla Power and Bethan Walker
Iterations Of I: Sinead Keenan, Joseph Radcliffe, Andrew Macklin, Teddy Kempner and Allison McKenzie
check out website: www.bigfinish.com