Concluding the sixth series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures from Big Finish, ‘The Thief who Stole Time’ contains the third and fourth episodes of a story which began in ‘The Skin of the Sleek’, dealing with the fate of the curious planet of Funderell.
Marc Platt’s tale delivers on the promise of the first part and wastes no time in promptly delivering the Doctor on his apparent suicide mission to Greygul. The village elder demands retribution for the death of their god, Funderell’s daughter, the giant electric eel killed by Romana’s academy pal Sartia.
Of course, the fast-talking Doctor soon lands himself a job and is chained to the village “Book of Futures”, a temporal tome with a Gallifreyan pedigree, as their skald (or oracle). This grants Tom Baker the opportunity to do what he does best with some brilliant quips, a few of which we guess might have been his own contributions.
Meanwhile, having left Romana rather in the lurch as her academy reunion turned sour, she finds herself rescued by the errant skald Linnis and together they put together some of the pieces of the puzzle – not least that Linnis’ father Blujaw (Des McAleer) is still alive. This, of course, we suspected as his magnificent narration frames this story as it did the first disc.
Throughout the story, we really enjoyed the focus on Lalla Ward’s Romana here, with her usual superior demeanour suffering a sizable crack as she went through the emotional wringer; Romana is a character we often struggle to warm to, but this allowed her to show some vulnerability and be much less aloof than usual.
In a strong supporting cast, Joannah Tincey’s Sartia is the real standout; a strong and spirited foil for Romana, we hope the two will be paired again in a future outing before too long. Alan Cox’s ratings chasing journalist Eamonn Orensky was also an interesting creation too, and became a useful ally for the Doctor – albeit one who was recording everything that happens.
It is difficult to say too much more without spoiling story details, which would be a particular shame in tale as beautifully crafted as this. From Ken Bentley’s subtle direction to the superb soundscape and Season 18 appropriate score, courtesy of Jamie Robertson, this four-parter is a cracker which takes time to build up and develop its mysteries. It is a story we expect to be returning to for multiple airings.
From Jago and Litefoot to the return of the return of the Movellans, this has been another strong series of ‘The Fourth Doctor Adventures’ and it is clear that its star relishes every moment. 2018’s seventh run promises the return of Leela, plus a slight shift in format; released in two parts, one this month, one in May, the stories will be available both individually as downloads, as well as box sets in both CD and download. We can’t wait!