Across three surreal instalments of Baker’s End, we were treated to the death and feline-infused resurrection of Tom Baker as “The King of Cats”. Through his adventures, he saw off twerking pensioners, psychic investigators and grotesque scarecrows, even journeying into Hades to save his faithful housekeeper.
This fourth episode however brings a change. While the other core cast members remain unchanged, Mr Baker himself has been refreshed. As luck would have it, there is a further Baker star in the firmament and the former Sixth Doctor Colin has gamely donned the furry cat suit.
Clearly wise to the perils of changing the leading actor, Paul Magrs’ script holds back the full glory of Baker 2.0 for the most part (in a manner not dissimilar to ‘The Christmas Invasion’) and instead focusses on the fate which has befallen the village of Happenstance. Stricken by a pox, the residents are first falling ill and then dropping down dead, causing a terrible log jam in burials at in the churchyard.
Into the mix, with our hero laid up in hospital and swathed in bandages, Magrs injects the thrillingly dashing monster-hunter novelist Derek Titts, played with panache by Alastair Petrie, a rather suspicious and officious nurse Sister Timperly (Margaret Cabourn-Smith) – plus a plague of giant rats, who talk, of course.
Narration duties are shared between the perky Susy Goshawk (the irrepressible Katy Manning) and the delightfully dour Mrs Frimbly (Susan Jameson), who wonderfully maintains a running grudge against the Reverend Ailing (Ewan Bailey) over her recent burning at the stake… as one might!
Save for a manic Tom-like outburst early on, Colin is clearly a different Baker. What they share however, is a love of language which shines through the script. Despite the pestilence and death, this somehow feels like a lighter story with its focus on the change in hand, but we were still kept guessing and thoroughly entertained. There is also a superb fourth wall gag to be cherished, as well as the return of the unintelligible Sinister Presence.
It is no mean feat to survive the change of a star, especially one around whom a series was so deftly created, but there was always more here than just Tom off the leash, delightful though that was. For all its madness, Baker’s End continues the age old traditions of spinning a good yarn, being a bit cheeky and keeping the listener on their toes. With that in mind, we look forward to what comes next…
Oh, and the shocking reveal of a hitherto unheard War Baker in due course (surely the smart money is on Cheryl?)
Baker’s End 4: The Happenstance Pox is available on CD for £9.99 or Download for £6.99 from http://www.bafflegab.co.uk/
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