Released September 2014
‘Domain of the Voord’ launches a new range for Big Finish’s line of Doctor Who, The Early Adventures, a replacement for the beloved The Companion Chronicles line that intends to offer a longer story experience more in line with the televised adventures of the First and Second Doctors.
The Voord race is an interesting one to bring back, let alone for the initial launch of a new range. Featuring only once in the First Doctor story ‘The Keys of Marinus,’ the Voord certainly have a distinctive look to them but never quite managed to reach the pantheon of such successful villains that further exploration was required. However, with the audio medium, the Voord are finally able to reach their fuller potential; while remaining true to the 1960s version, their backstory and purpose has been re-imagined and infuses them with the potential to become interesting recurring villain now.
With the lengthier running time this range affords, events are allowed to proceed at a much more typical pace for the Hartnell era. The TARDIS lands on a ship that is part of a group trying to evade an enemy quickly revealed to be the Voord over the watery planet of Hydra. The story then makes use of the ‘vacation’ concept employed during the early years of the programme as the TARDIS crew is soon split up and the Doctor and Barbara are absent for a substantial part of the proceedings while Ian and Susan remain on the ship once a Voord is captured. Susan trying to get through to this creature and understand its motives is a great character moment for her, something that didn’t come too often on screen.
Writer Andrew Smith does a surprising amount with the Voord, showing their extreme intelligence and menacing cunning that could rival that of any other foe the Doctor has ever come across. There was once a comic featuring the Voord that showed them evolving into the Cybermen and, while that revelation does not come to pass, there is the inclusion of the interesting concept of the Voord mask making the wearer part of the ruthless Voord collective, rejecting and scarring those it finds impure if they are not dedicated to the cause from the outset. There are plenty of gruesome scenes in this story that features torture and subjugation, but the scenes with the mask- especially with those it rejects and threatens to ruin, including Susan- are particularly grim.
The mask proves to be only the initial layer of the Voord threat for subjugation of the Hydra populace, as the Doctor finds and leads an attack against a large engine that allows the completion. Interestingly, there are two groups of Voord revealed here, those who truly belong to the race and get to choose who to allow to wear the mask and those who have been transformed. With the revelation that events have been proceeding in a fashion that goes against the usual code of choosing those to join their ranks, the Voord themselves must decide if their assured victory is worth changing their beliefs.
Like in many strong science fiction stories, the outcome of this choice is left unresolved as, in fact, is the invasion of Hydra itself. The storyline is still ongoing at story’s end after the Doctor and company leave, potentially creating an opening for a sequel of sorts should this story and format prove popular. Regardless, the atmosphere and visuals evoked are superb, and the Voord have been infused with a new level of backstory and intrigue that makes them much more exciting than the small group that appeared way back in ‘The Keys of Marinus.’ Despite that odd choice for a recurring villain to launch this new series, ‘Domain of the Voord’ gets it off to a very strong start and whets the appetite for further adventures to come.