Released July 2014
Co-written by Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs, ‘The Abandoned’ takes The Fourth Doctor Adventures out of the realm of nostalgia and gloriously into the unexpected. Within the depths of the TARDIS, one of its oldest secrets is about to be revealed as someone long-forgotten is ready to reappear, threatening to change the very foundation of the universe itself as the Point of Stillness draws near.
‘The Abandoned’ is brimming with wonderfully intriguing concepts, and the Point of Stillness itself is certainly one of the most fascinating. The decimal point in Gallifrey’s galactic coordinates, it is the heart of the storm created by the Big Bang and is forbidden to even be discussed for fear of it being defiled and the blurred barrier between fiction and reality breaking. As the Doctor and Leela become gripped by madness and something that defies definition, the claustrophobic setting of the TARDIS interior is used to great effect. Likewise, the loaded history of Marianna is handled deftly, and what could become overcomplicated as a being with the greatest weapon ever devised and a nanosecond away from absolute power who was tricked into manifesting a coma-inducing drug that was used against her instead feels fairly streamlined and accessible. As she threatens to re-emerge from her prison in the heart of the TARDIS to seek revenge against those who imprisoned her, a strong sense of tension and danger is created while hidden memories and truths very dear to the Doctor and Leela become known.
Perhaps unavoidably, the first episode is nowhere near as strong as the second while madness overruns affairs, the incessant use of laughter, children’s nursery rhymes, and random violence skewing a bit far into the bizarre with no immediately apparent sense of cohesion. Fortunately, the second episode manages to bring everything together fluidly while offering a much more dramatic tale, though the intriguing notions brought up do not quite have enough time to fully breathe and develop due to the short running time. At the same time, ‘The Abandoned’ is absolutely a highlight for both of the leads, and Tom Baker deserves immense credit for being able to still find new aspects of characterization for his Doctor, this time sublimely bringing vulnerability to the forefront as he pleads for his sanity and life. Given that this is a script co-written by Louise Jameson, it also makes perfect sense that Leela takes on a more proactive role, though it’s the unique teacher-pupil relationship she has with the Doctor and her keen aptitude that magnificently take centre stage when their planned trip to ancient Gallifrey goes awry.
‘The Abandoned’ must be commended for doing something completely new and unexpected in what is arguably Big Finish’s most grounded and nostalgic range. Although the first episode will turn some audience members off because of its seeming incoherency and excessive use of sound effects and randomness, the release as a whole is quite satisfying given the weighty themes and ideas anchoring the story. As truth and fiction blend, the utterly dominating and convincing performances of Tom Baker and Louise Jameson who showcase a rarely-seen frailty of each of their characters effortlessly guide the narrative through its tonal imbalance to a resounding conclusion.