Doc­tor Who

Back to the gothic era

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Videogames/ miscellaneous -

Of all the Doc­tor Who

eras, one of the best- loved is 1974– 1976, the early Tom Baker years when the show was pro­duced by Philip Hinch­cliffe. Now Big Fin­ish have in­vited him to over­see a box set of two Fourth Doc­tor ad­ven­tures. The re­sults are as dark and at­mo­spheric as you’d ex­pect. The set be­gins with The Ghosts

Of Gral­stead, where the Doc­tor and Leela ar­rive in 1860s Eng­land and en­counter a freak show, a haunted manor house and a pair of bodys­natch­ers. A lurid six- part pulp mys­tery, it fea­tures strong per­for­mances ( es­pe­cially from Baker), but like other six- parters feels rather stretched at times.

Tighter at four episodes, The Devil’s Ar­mada pitches the Doc­tor and Leela into the su­per­sti­tious chaos of 16th cen­tury Eng­land. This rol­lick­ing ad­ven­ture gets slightly ham­pered by ran­dom plot­ting in its fi­nal episode, but over­all this box set is still an en­ter­tain­ing dose of Hinch­cliffe- style Who.

Else­where, a dou­ble- bill of reg­u­lar re­leases wraps up the lat­est tril­ogy for the Sev­enth Doc­tor, Ace and Hex. Mask Of Tragedy sees the crew vis­it­ing An­cient Greece for a hol­i­day that’s soon dis­rupted by a mys­te­ri­ous plague and a pow­er­ful alien mask. The story starts well, and Sa­muel West gives a great per­for­mance as Aristo­phanes, but the plot gets in­creas­ingly loopy, while at­tempts at epic sto­ry­telling re­sult in end­less amounts of bom­bas­tic shout­ing.

In Signs And Won­ders, the Doc­tor brings Hex home to Liver­pool in the 2020s, just in time to en­counter an apoc­a­lyp­tic cult, a race of ea­gle- like aliens and the po­ten­tial res­ur­rec­tion of an an­cient en­tity. It’s a con­ti­nu­ity­heavy story that will be pretty much in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to new lis­ten­ers, and it’s pitched at such an over- thetop level that de­spite a few touch­ing mo­ments, it’s ul­ti­mately ex­haust­ing rather than en­joy­able.

Fi­nally, The Early Ad­ven­tures, a range of sto­ries set dur­ing the Hart­nell and Troughton eras, launches with Do­main Of The Vo­ord, a tale fea­tur­ing the first TARDIS team and nar­rated by Susan ( Ca­role Ann Ford) and Ian ( Wil­liam Rus­sell). A visit to the wa­tery world of Hy­dra sees the Doc­tor once again en­coun­ter­ing the evil Vo­ord from 1964’ s “The Keys of Mar­i­nus”. This rip­ping yarn has an epic scale that fits early Who’s semi- ed­u­ca­tional tone, and cap­tures just the right blend of gen­tly- paced retro ad­ven­ture. Saxon Bul­lock

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