Aside from my upcoming character studies on the main characters from Season 14 to 18, and aside from Leela (Louise Jameson), you won’t be hearing much anymore about the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his main companions. Nevertheless, for now, we can still enjoy and bask in the company of the Fourth Doctor for just a little while more with this review of Big Finish’s “The Fourth Doctor Adventures” Series 1.
Again, Series 1 of this particular range is the only one available to listen to on Spotify for free, so if you are curious and want to hear more adventures with the Fourth Doctor, please support the awesome work they do buy buying and downloading Big Finish’s stuff on the website and on their app. Nobody has paid me to say this, and I’m just saying it because the work that they do for Whovians is priceless.
Also, just as a side note, this is the range which I listened to as I commuted to and fro from work on the bus, and quite honestly, it made my bus rides and the time spent waiting in line for a bus, very enjoyable.
The first series of “The Fourth Doctor Adventures” consists of six stories, with the last two stories actually being a two parter. These were written by Nicholas Briggs, Justin Richards, John Dorney, and Alan Barnes, and mostly featured Leela (Louise Jameson) as the Doctor’s main companion. Timeline-wise, these stories are set between Season 14 and 15, which makes sense as the Doctor continually alludes to “continuing her education” in the audio dramas.
Among all of these stories, “Destination Nerva” is the one in which the Fourth Doctor doesn’t sound much like his old self yet, and I think that Baker needed some time to get the sparkle and wit of his Fourth Doctor self back, which is quite evident in the rest of the audio dramas and in “The Fourth Doctor Boxset: The Lost Stories”.
Jameson, however, always knocks it out of the park as Leela, and always plays her to perfection. She still has the same Leela sensibilities about her, and you can almost watch her as Leela.
This series had a few surprises, and for me, in particular, it was the reveal of the big bad during the first part of the series finale, “Trail of the White Worm”. I didn’t even guess who the villain was until it was spelled out for me, and I was listening very intently to the drama.
All of the stories were interesting and well written, except for “Destination:Nerva”, which I thought could have been better, especially as it was sort of like the pilot episode of the range.
Nevertheless, it was a good start to the entire range, and I myself am very much tempted to go and get the next few ranges based on how much I liked this series.
Now, you know the drill, from here on out there will be spoilers!
As I said earlier, I wasn’t really that impressed with “Destination: Nerva”, and felt that it was a weak opening for the entire range. I think part of this would have to be because Baker didn’t really sound much like his old Fourth Doctor self, and I don’t just mean the voice- it seemed like he had to find the zest, wit and sparkle that the Fourth Doctor had first. However, Jameson, on the other hand, stepped into the role of Leela again like a glove fits neatly on one’s hand.
I also didn’t mind the setting, and it was nice to see Nerva station again at a different point in its timeline.
I also felt that the writing was a little bit weak. I think that Nicholas Briggs can write, but I feel that his strengths truly lie in producing the Big Finish audio dramas and writing more material for his beloved Daleks.
“The Renaissance Man”, which was written by Justin Richards, was surprisingly haunting and a good “Doctor Who” story. There was tons of action, and a lot of guesswork on my end, as I was confused but intrigued at the same time, just like most good “Doctor Who” stories.
The reveal that all of them, including the main antagonist were only being used to store the data, and them questioning their own existence was just heartbreaking.
Richards’ script was delightful and suited the Fourth Doctor to a tee, and I loved how I honestly thought we were getting a historical, but ended up with a more hard core science fiction story.
John Dorney’s “The Wrath of the Iceni”, on the other hand, is pure historical goodness. I love seeing the Doctor in tight situations like this, because it’s in these very difficult situations in which you see his true character come out and shine. In this case, we see the Fourth Doctor at his best- convincing others that what he’s saying is the truth then deftly outwitting everyone at the end.
This was also a very good Leela episode, because despite all her travels, she still is a proud warrior of the Sevateem, and it is very believable that she would end up believing and following Boudica. And honestly, for a very small split second, I did think that she was going to end up staying. Thank goodness the Doctor didn’t want to leave her behind and that she discovered the truth right away.
This was a delight of a story.
I think that the stand out performance of “Energy of the Daleks” is no doubt Nicholas Briggs. Aside from being one of the head honchos of Big Finish, and writing this particular serial, he’s also in it because he’s the only guy who can truly do those Dalek voices justice. However, let’s not forget that Dan Starkey, whom we all know as Strax in NuWho, is in this as well, and is portraying an actual human being rather than an alien.
I would have loved to have seen this on the small screen as it was a good Dalek story, and I would have given anything to see Leela in 21st century garb.
I also love how Leela is unflinching in the face of the scariest alien race in “Doctor Who” as she has firm belief that the Doctor will save her.
And finally, we come to the very last adventure, which was divided into two parts- “The Trail of the White Worm” and “The Oseidon Adventure” which was both written by Alan Barnes.
My suggestion for both of these stories is to listen to it carefully and listen to it continuously because if not, you will definitely get confused at some point.
Once again, I totally didn’t expect that the main villain here would be the Master, or rather the Geoffrey Beevers version of the Master. I really liked hearing him as the Master, and I wish that I could hear more of him as this particular character in the future.
Baker and Jameson were wonderful here, and had such great chemistry for this entire season that it makes sense that it was set in between Seasons 14 and 15.
I guess my biggest gripe here is that the Kraals aren’t the most inspired of villainous aliens to choose from, and that we really didn’t need that subplot with the girl who wants nothing more but to run away from home.
I also really liked how there were duplicates of the Doctor and the Master everywhere and how each tried to outwit the other, and at some point, the Master turned against himself.
All in all, “The Fourth Doctor Adventures” are a wonderful way to spend more time with both Leela and the Fourth Doctor and are definitely worth a listen to. This also shows you the amazing things that Big Finish can do, and trust me, once you get started on Big Finish, there’s no going back.
How did you like “The Fourth Doctor Adventures” Series 1? What was your favorite story? What was your least favorite story? Let me know what you think in the comments below!