Back as the first Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian are David Bradley (now also the first Doctor on TV, courtesy of last year’s Christmas special Twice Upon A Time), Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell and Jamie Glover. Now on their second boxset, they no longer sound strange to the ear, and the set overall feels more polished and authentic than the first (which was very good in its own right).
A lot of this is due to the writing. The first story is the two-disc Invention Of Death by John Dorney, a tale of the world of Ashtallah where the natives are quite possibly the most alien ever encountered. Without spoiling any of this delightful tale, there’s a strong HG Wells feel to the story of how the TARDIS crew have many of their assumptions tested by their encounter with the natives. Each character contributes to the whole but the performance of the aliens, particularly Tracy Wiles as Sharlan and Michelle Morris as Brenna are sublime. Credit too to Nick Briggs in the director’s seat. Howard Carter’s sound and music add to the whole, making this feel particularly magical.
The standard is maintained in Andrew Smith’s two-disc historical The Barbarians And The Samurai. Set in nineteenth century Japan, it’s almost scandalous this rich period of history has been ignored by the show to date, and Andrew sets matters right in a tale of the Shogun, Samurai and Ronin. There’s plenty of intrigue, politics and more than a hint of the classic James Clavell novel from 1975, all in a good way.
Andrew’s careful choreography splits the TARDIS crew into two pairs, then into four individuals before bringing them all back together as matters come to a head. The piece is very much like something the BBC might have made back in the early 1960s, with a flavour of some more modern ideas. The writing doesn’t dwell on this, focusing on intrigue and entertainment. The whole cast take to their roles with relish and it’s congratulations all round.