Released July 2008
‘The Boy that Time Forgot’ is not a story that needed to be told and, honestly, it’s probably not one that many people wanted to be told before its release. With that in mind, it’s a testament to both Big Finish and writer Paul Magrs that the end result comes off as rather an enjoyable success.
Picking up after the conclusion of ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’ in which the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa find themselves trapped without the TARDIS, they quickly assemble a group of brilliant minds to help them recover it. Inevitably things don’t go quite as planned, and they soon find themselves trapped on pre-historic Earth. As such, the lack of the TARDIS isn’t just a narrative quirk as it allows the TARDIS to, in a sense, still be the driving force of the story’s movement while also allowing the Doctor to showcase just how truly brilliant he is in devising alternative means of travel.
Both Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are superb as usual, Davison afforded a slightly lighter take on his character and Sutton able to bring out a more determined and brave facet of a Nyssa who is unafraid to stand up for herself. The main talking point of this release, though, of course, is the revelation that Adric did, indeed, survive the shocking events of ‘Earthshock’ and that Tegan was correct in wanting to go back for him. This is a radically risky and divisive decision and, even if not needed narratively, it is interesting to consider such an emotionally-stunted young man trapped in such wild surroundings by himself. Notably, this is a much, much older Adric than the televised version, and with Matthew Waterhouse not reprising his role, that duty falls to Andrew Sachs who is able to give a slightly more sinister edge to personality traits that were always present just out of sight in the young boy. The whole idea is ludicrous and controversial, but it is an incredibly intriguing take on the much-maligned character whose very essence has been warped by time and stewing, building up a dangerous army of his own in the process.
The sound design and cliffhangers really help to sell the wild environment and dangers of both the environment and the plot, and the guest cast is wonderful from beginning to end. A tale about Adric after his seeming demise was certainly not on the wish list of the vast majority of Doctor Who fans, but the flourish and style in which it is done certainly makes it worthwhile regardless of the repercussions. In a way, it succeeds precisely because it is unafraid to go against normal story conventions, taking the TARDIS out of the equation completely and flaunting its willingness to disregard established continuity while also firmly adhering to Adric’s love of mathematics and even recalling Logopolitan block transfer computation. The fantasy that Magrs usually injects into his stories is tempered by an overwhelming sense of the macabre, giving an inherently pleasing if unsettling experience. This is certainly a story that will split the fan base and may well end up being completely disregarded in the long run and labeled as a type of alternate universe story, but it’s enjoyable enough at face value regardless of a listener’s preconceptions.