Released September 2016
The Early Adventures has been a revelation for Big Finish, affording the eras of the First and Second Doctors a chance to flourish, crafting new full-cast adventures while staying true to the tone and very essence of those times. ‘The Age of Endurance’ marks the beginning of the third series and sees the original TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara land aboard a seemingly empty spaceship that soon leads them to the very heart of an impossibly old war.
Without question, one of the biggest talking points of ‘The Age of Endurance’ will be the recasting of Barbara Wright. While there is a natural trepidation whenever a beloved character must be recast due to the unfortunate passing of the original actor or actress, Big Finish has certainly proven adept at doing so while paying homage and due respect to the original performances with the previous decisions to cast Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor and Elliot Chapman as Ben Jackson. Following her wonderful turn as Jacqueline Hill in the fiftieth anniversary special An Adventure in Time and Space, Jemma Powell is a perfect decision to take on the role of Barbara in The Early Adventures. Wisely, she does not try to impersonate Hill directly, instead giving a natural performance that captures the spirit of Barbara wonderfully. In fact, with her easy chemistry between William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, it’s a shame that she is captured and remains off-screen for so long, though this format and plot development is perfectly in line with the cast holidays of the original era.
William Russell and Carol Ann Ford continue to defy time, recapturing their characters from over fifty years ago perfectly. Russell, of course, is tasked with recreating the William Hartnell incarnation of the Doctor as well, and he captures the quirky intonations and haughty furtiveness of the character wonderfully. Even in the many scenes that Ian and the Doctor share together, there are only the briefest moments of slight vocal overlap, Russell quickly able to add enough nuance to each voice to create a totally distinctive and realistic performance. In staying true to this original era, Ian is thrust directly into the more heroic role, and the dangerous choices he needs to make as well as the harrowing consequences he must accept help further define this stalwart character more than five decades in the making.
While alluding to many World War II submarine movies, the plot of ‘The Age of Endurance’ slots in well with its intended era. Unfolding at a slower and more deliberate pace, the production gives tremendous detail to both sides of the conflict and their common ground, painting both sides in varying shades of grey that adds needed depth to the very personal and emotional core of the tale. As the vast warships try to outmanoeuver each other as they head into ever more dangerous areas of space, Rachel Atkins as Myla and Tom Bell as both Arran and the reptilian Shift superbly showcase the sentiments of their principal characters and their rather unique situation. At the same time, the script and director manage to blend a sense of modernity with a sense of 1960s nostalgia, engaging action sequences that could not have been realised on television at the time along with ships that are distinctly mechanical and even utilize microcircuits and punch cards.
‘The Age of Endurance’ may not be the most original of releases, but it expertly captures the time of the original TARDIS crew. The central plot is tense and intriguing, not nearly as straightforward as initially presented, and both the lead and guest cast is on remarkably strong form. And although it’s understandable that Barbara would be sidelined, Jemma Powell proves to be yet another successful Big Finish recasting experiment who will hopefully be used more in the future.