The Evil One
Audio / February 14, 2017

Released April 2014 The Fourth Doctor Adventures turns once more to Big Finish stalwart Nicholas Briggs for the fourth adventure of its third series, bringing Leela to the forefront with events hearken back to her televised debut in ‘The Face of Evil’ and beyond. As the Doctor and Leela find themselves surrounded by the mystery of and the investigation into a space cruiser’s missing crew and passengers as well as by a horde of metal mantis-like aliens, Leela finds herself haunted by terrible nightmares and the dawning realization that everything she takes to be true may be a lie. Big Finish has done wonders with expanding companions’ backstories and characterization in its many years of audio production, and ‘The Evil One’ initially seems as though it is the story to finally do the same for Leela, a refreshing notion after the majority of the early releases in The Fourth Doctor Adventures have relied on nostalgia and tradition more than anything else. In theory, looking at Leela’s relationship with her father and comparing that to her relationship with the Doctor is a fantastically enticing idea; unfortunately, the story never goes into any detail regarding why Leela should come to doubt herself…

Trail of the White Worm
Audio / January 16, 2017

Released May 2012 The first run of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures nears its end, its two-story conclusion opening with ‘Trail of the White Worm.’ When the Doctor and Leela arrive in 1979 Derbyshire and get caught up in a hunt for a missing local girl, they soon discover that the source o the legend dating back to Roman times of a great white worm that takes animals and children for food at Dark Peak Gap is alive and well and that the Doctor is not the only renegade Time Lord involved in the hunt. Even though the titular beast ends up being something quite non-terrestrial in origin, the description of the curse surrounding the worm is quite robust without ever becoming burdensome. A rebellious youth named John Lambton originally caught a presumed lamprey while enjoying a spot of fishing rather than attending church, throwing it in a well as he left to join the Crusades. With John away, the worm grew to immense proportions and poisoned the well, ruined local farms, and destroyed his family’s estate. John did return to seemingly kill the worm, but the next nine generations of his family’s patriarchs would all come to meet…

The Deadly Assassin
Episode / December 15, 2016

Aired 30 October – 20 November 1976 Following the departure of long-time companion Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor returns to Gallifrey in ‘The Deadly Assassin,’ a boldly experimental tale that tackles and criticises Time Lord society itself. Likely intentionally referencing the assassination of John F Kennedy, the High President of Gallifrey is murdered during a high-profile event being widely broadcast, and the Doctor, found holding a rifle, is the initial suspect in an increasingly deceptive and conspiratorial plot that even brings in the CIA, the Celestial Intervention Agency. Of course, ‘The Deadly Assassin’ is a very important episode in many overt and subtle ways. Aside from establishing the means by which Time Lord High Presidents are chosen, this story also establishes that Time Lords are limited to thirteen bodies through the regeneration process, a core piece of mythology that looms large over the programme to this day. Intriguingly, ‘The Deadly Assassin’ also continues with the Fourth Doctor era’s slow deconstruction of the Time Lords who seemed so incredibly powerful during their introduction in ‘The War Games.’ The society is presented as quite overtly British in styling and the script is unafraid to criticise several British institutions along the way. It’s…

Frontier in Space
Episode / November 9, 2016

Aired 24 February – 31 March 1973 Assuredly a conscious decision to celebrate the return of the Third Doctor to his free and exploratory ways, ‘Frontier in Space’ sets out to form the first half of a twelve-part epic tale that is concluded in ‘Planet of the Daleks.’ While the two stories as a whole may not quite reach the lofty heights of the previous lengthy epic ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan,’ ‘Frontier in Space’ by itself is a wonderful example of Doctor Who on its largest scale, showcasing tremendous consequences in a vast space opera. As with any six-part story, there is occasional superfluous padding to fill out the running time. While having the Doctor and Jo shunted off as prisoners of different groups for the majority of the story may feel like a convenient plot contrivance, though, it also helps to ensure setting changes that keeps the pacing and revelations brisk enough to maintain interest without ever dragging excessively. In fact, writer Malcolm Hulke exploits the extended running time to effectively flesh out this future filled with galactic conflict. Few of the details scattered throughout the script directly relate to the plot, but it’s refreshing to see just how…

The Time Monster
Episode / November 7, 2016

Aired 20 May – 24 June 1972 In a series of stories filled with quite memorable villains such as the Daleks, Ice Warriors, and Sea Devils, Doctor Who tries to up the menace in ‘The Time Monster,’ a tale that has an incredible amount going for it on paper but, like ‘The Mutants’ before it, fails to live up to its intriguing premise. The story wastes no action in setting the scene as the Doctor has a nightmarish vision of the Master and links it to Jo’s news of recent volcanic action on the island of Thera. As events shift to the Newton Institute, the Master and the amusingly-acronymed TOM-TIT, Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time, experimental machinery take centre stage. This equipment allows for the transportation of matter but with several time-related side effects within its vicinity that include both advancing and reversing the aging process and freezing others in time. Regardless, the equipment brings the Master a powerful crystal from the lost city of Atlantis, giving him control of the powerful time-devouring Kronos as well as the ability to summon others form the past to help him achieve his goals and to protect the Institute from advancing UNIT…

The Sea Devils
Episode / November 2, 2016

Aired 26 February – 1 April 1972 ‘The Sea Devils’ is, in essence, a complementary sequel to ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians,’ arguably the most ambitious and morally complex story of the early Pertwee era. Though the sequel may not attempt to explore the inner emotional and moral turmoil as well as its predecessor, its ambition is every bit as great while at the same time offering a more balanced pace, a greater emphasis on action, and an improved costume design to create another very engaging story. Filmed in collaboration with the Royal Navy, ‘The Sea Devils’ is a classic British adventure story, and the production values are phenomenal, lending a true sense of scope and peril to proceedings. With thrilling boat chases, explosions, and even a nearly-laughable escape by the beguiling Master at the end, ‘The Sea Devils’ is certainly not going to appease those looking for a slower character piece. As the notion of humans cohabitating their planet with another sentient species had already been discussed and proven impossible with the Silurians, writer Malcolm Hulke thankfully does not overindulge in retreading familiar territory with the Sea Devils, instead allowing the threat to unfold naturally while only hinting at…

The Daemons
Episode / October 31, 2016

Aired 22 May – 19 June 1971 Jon Pertwee’s second year in the titular role is undoubtedly less experimental than his first, the stories for the most part very clearly following the template laid out in ‘Terror of the Autons’ and using that template to good effect. ‘The Daemons’ also marks the first attempt at a dramatic season finale that offers a dramatic settlement of what has come before it. Its execution is somewhat reserved as it only underscores the multiple appearances of the Master in this season and features a much bigger foe than any previous story, but it’s an important step nonetheless that adds extra weight to this serial and with refined effects that are still felt and implemented in the modern television series. ‘The Daemons’ expertly blends together a certain New Age philosophy with the much darker culture of the occult, and the satanic foe and imagery around hallowed grounds is employed superbly at a time when The Church of Satan was gaining prominence as an organized religion. Indeed, the Master seems quite acclimated with Earth’s studies and theories of the occult, even offering a spin on one of the the famous occultist Aleister Crowley’s declarations, presenting…

The Claws of Axos
Episode / October 29, 2016

Aired 13 March – 3 April 1971 ‘The Claws of Axos’ has strangely come under criticism in the decades since its broadcast for simply being the epitome of the Pertwee era. While it may not dare to do anything groundbreaking, the story told of aliens landing in Great Britain and offering to resolve all of mankind’s trouble with a mysterious technology that ends up being much too good to be true is still a very intriguing and well-paced one. The strict Earth-based setting for the early Pertwee years does inherently limit the types of stories that can be told without forgetting the science fiction element, but the friendly alien invasion plot achieves everything it sets out to do while pushing the boundaries of practical and special effects of the programme with decidedly mixed results. The colour separation overlay technique has been increasingly employed through the early Pertwee stories, and that trend certainly continues here, giving an almost living comic book feel to the scenes aboard the Axon vessel but unfortunately not creating an overwhelming sense of verisimilitude. The actual Axons themselves come in two forms, the golden humanoid iterations used for negotiations much more visually effective than the trundling rubber-and-cloth…

The Mind of Evil
Episode / October 28, 2016

Aired 30 January – 6 March 1971 For years ‘The Mind of Evil’ existed only as a black-and-white copy of the original televised colour edition, but painstaking digital reconstruction has recently restored the second serial of the eighth series to its original glory, allowing it to fit beside its Pertwee counterparts seamlessly. ‘The Mind of Evil’ is another prime example of the paradigm shift Doctor Who experienced in the early Pertwee years. With the Third Doctor still exiled on Earth, working with the militaristic UNIT and without essential knowledge of the TARDIS, the stories necessarily become much more topical and politically relevant as the series also temporarily foregoes its more classic science fiction elements for a greater focus on action and adventure instead. The eighth series in particular is notable for introducing the nefarious Master to the franchise, and Roger Delgado reprises his role form ‘The Terror of the Autons’ to wonderful effect as the linking force between two seemingly disparate storylines involving the sabotage of an international peace conference and a brainwashing rehabilitation experiment with very unintended consequences. Six months after the Doctor marooned the Master on Earth as well, the fascinating game of intrigue and one upmanship the…

Terror of the Autons
Episode / October 26, 2016

Aired 2 – 23 January 1971 Jon Pertwee’s first season stands up as some of the very best and consistent British science fiction of the era, tackling mature themes while also proving that the shift to colour and setting the stories during one time period on Earth could breathe new life into the franchise. Beginning Pertwee’s second series, ‘Terror of the Autons’ takes a step back from the high-concept, instead offering a thrilling and frightening adventure that, though perhaps light on plot, is brimming with iconic moments that left an indelible mark on public consciousness. After proving to be such an incredible success the year before, the Autons return with another plan for world domination. Writer Robert Holmes proves adept at making the mundane absolutely petrifying, and the use of plastic mannequins, dolls, flowers, and even armchairs as weapons of destruction is terribly brilliant in its elegant simplicity. Doctor Who thrives when the commonplace becomes anything but, and the Autons exemplify this perfectly, the plastics here sometimes literally scaring their victims to death. The villains here also know how to exploit humans’ need for oxygen, and the Doctor fighting to save his new companion, Jo Grant, from suffocation is played…