Released November 2010
Following an overall successful exploration of what could have been for a theoretical season twenty-three featuring the Sixth Doctor, Big Finish turns its The Lost Stories range to other eras’ tales that never made it to production. A logical starting point for this approach would be at the very beginning, and Nigel Robinson adapts two scripts from Moris Fahri for The First Doctor Box Set, following much in the vein of The Companion Chronicles and utilizing narration and a limited cast rather than trying to fully recreate that bygone time.
‘Farewell, Great Macedon’ opens the set and provides a perfect example of the slower, more methodical historical adventures that populated Hartnell’s early tenure, and having the Doctor cross paths with Alexander the Great as he returns to Babylon and the fabled Hanging Gardens is a fascinating conceit rife with dramatic potential. Though the narration likely slows the pacing down more than intended and possibly takes away from some of the individuality of the conspiratorial characters, the story is nonetheless written in such a way that the motivations of both friends and foes are so clearly prevalent that these never become an issue as the intrigue of the assassination plot threatening the entire line of succession takes centre stage.
Despite the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara all being present and quickly befriending Alexander, they never truly drive the drama and instead are in more of a reactive role as history unfolds around them exactly as the history books dictate, with even Alexander succumbing to the ultimate fate as the assassination plot comes fully to fruition. Of course, the plot is heightened by the poeticism of the notion that only law and order are allowed within Babylon as well as by Alexander’s unquenchable desire to unite the many different lands and races of the world. Indeed, it’s this passion for finding the common among all of mankind that forms the crux of the protagonists’ narrative, especially from the voiced perspectives of Alexander and Ian; however, coming from an era when the Doctor’s actions and the programme itself were completely undefined, this optimism does not carry through to a happy resolution as Susan must wrestle with the fixedness of some points in history even as the Doctor tries to introduce blood transfusions and iron lungs to the world far earlier than is proper.
Of course, with such a limited cast for such an expanded roster of characters, the greatest success of ‘Farewell, Great Macedon’ lies with its performers. William Russell and Carole Ann Ford have had plenty of practice in recapturing their characters given their work in The Companion Chronicles range; still, the ease with which Ford recaptures the youth of Susan while providing a wonderful impression of Barbara and the range of Russell as he brings the dynamic Ian as well as the Doctor and the conspirators to life is colossal. Supporting them is John Dorney as Alexander himself, and he imbues the noble figure with a tremendous sense of honour and open-mindedness that balances out the menace of the conspirators and the opposing views of even some of his closest colleagues.
Playing to the mischievousness and moral ambiguity of the early First Doctor and highlighting the very best elements of his companions, ‘Farewell, Great Macedon’ could easily slot into the televised era without missing a beat. As is, this untelevised drama is a masterful audio brought to life with staggering performances, deft direction, and excellent sound design and serves as a perfect testament to The Lost Stories as a whole.