Back to the gothic era
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