Available as either a boxset or four individual instalments, the seventh series of Fourth Doctor Adventures concludes with Volume 2, and it’s four more hugely entertaining stories for Tom Baker’s Doctor in the company of Leela (Louise Jameson).
Justin Richards starts with The Shadow Of London. It’s the 1940s and London seems unusually quiet, and the few people they meet seem too British to be true, all except a certain Hemmings (Darren Boyd). Of course, a killer is on the loose and there’s a secret, one which the Doctor soon discerns, but not soon enough to prevent death and deception. It’s a well-paced tale, a setting concept seen in other stories (no spoiler) but still fresh here, and a very strong supporting performance by Darren Boyd. It makes a strong start to the set and could easily have been a longer story. It also explores some of the ethics of war, and what is and is not acceptable. It does this intelligently, avoiding simple answers.
Next up is Dan Starkey’s The Bad Penny. Dan is not only known for playing several Sontarans (including Strax) but is also a writer. The Bad Penny is the most timey-wimey [sic!] of the four stories in this set, with the wonderfully named Ron Tulip struggling to keep his hotel viable in the 1970s, not helped by the turbulence in time threatening to blow into a full-scale temporal paradox. Dan plays several parts, but the centre of this plot is the pairing of Ron Tulip (Greg Haiste) and Lord Tulip (Keith Barron). Add Leela into the mix, several versions of Deborah Harris (Laura Rees) and the inevitable hotel porter Edwin (Andrew Ryan) and there’s soon a lot happening, loads of entertainment, some irony and overall a joyous romp.
Like the previous volume, the final two stories form a two-parter, and in this case it’s for Guy Adams to bring us Kill The Doctor! and The Age Of Sutekh. Gebriel Woolf reprises the Osiran god Sutekh and the planet Drummond takes him into the future of human history, desperate to restore his full powers and just at home here as he was in humanity’s past. The first part centres on the downside of social media, the world wide web and smartphones, and is in some ways similar to his recent two-part Cyberman story in the UNIT: Cyber-Reality boxset. Here, though, the premise works better, perhaps as it is given more time.
There are plenty of good secondary characters with writer/actor John Dorney as policeman Charlton Joyce, the versatile Barnaby Edwards taking on numerous roles, rounded off by Eleanor Crooks (Kendra) and Sophia Myles (Rania Chuma). The story works on several levels, and while the Doctor and Leela are split up (as tends to happen), Leela has the role of mentor and guide, brimming with natural wisdom and more than an equal to the Doctor in terms of contribution.
As ever direction (Ken Bentley/Nick Briggs) is spot on, as is post-production. Another rock-solid release from Big Finish!