Released August 2014
The Fifth Doctor Box Set finally reunites Peter Davison’s original TARDIS crew of Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan, finally filling in some curiously Adric-sized holes in the Big Finish expanded universe. With two stories set at different ends of Davison’s first series, the Box Set offers a welcome return to Season 19 and an exciting chance to further explore the characters and their changing interactions.
Adric has not been completely bypassed by Big Finish before this release as Adrian Scarborough portrayed a version in ‘The Boy that Time Forgot’ and the character had received mentions in companion chronicles and short stories, but Matthew Waterhouse’s return to the role allows for the character to be much more front and center. Regardless of the general pervading thoughts about Adric, there is no denying that the character has always held a lot of dramatic potential due to his young age and circumstances; even at age fifty-two, Waterhouse adequately slips back into that age and mindset in his voicework. The big issue with Adric’s return, however, is that the TARDIS is once again occupied by four protagonists, but fortunately the writers Jonathan Morris and John Dorney both come up with stories and ideas that give each of the leads a satisfying role to play.
‘Psychodrome’ is the first offering, featuring a fresh-faced Fifth Doctor shortly after the events portrayed in ‘Castrovalva.’ This is very much a character piece, taking advantage of the fact that these characters do not really know each other at all. Having the characters facing manifestations of fear while simultaneously coming to terms with their pasts and current situation, ‘Psychodrome’ also allows for exploration of the impact that the Doctor’s regeneration is having on them, something not really touched on in the televised series. Tegan, in particular, is given some standout work as she struggles to find herself while coping with her Aunt’s recent death.
The crew finds themselves separated in a rather complex cave setting, and credit must be given to the guest cast members who do astounding work in playing multiple and varied roles to bring the environment to life. Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the tale, however, is that it is not afraid to use the audience’s current knowledge and inserting that as foreshadowing for each character: Adric’s fear of failure would prove his downfall in ‘Earthshock,’ Nyssa’s desire to help would become a major plot point in ‘Terminus’ and throughout several Big Finish audios, and the Doctor’s loneliness as the last of his race would become a theme well explored in the post-2005 series. Overall, though, this is a superb psychological story that offers fascinating insight into the minds of the new Time Lord and his companions.
‘Iterations of I’ forms the second story of the set. It is fitting- if not predictable given the return of Adric- that mathematics is the driving force of the plot. Attempting to recover the TARDIS after it topples off of an island cliff, the crew comes upon a house with a destroyed radio transmitter and boat. A mathematician has gone missing, and her father, the local constable, and another father/daughter duo are aiding in the search. What follows, though, is a tale that offers some genuinely good thrills and scares, putting a unique mathematical twist on the traditional ghost story to suit this particular crew. It is up to Tegan to be the voice of the everyman here, ensuring that nothing gets too technical for the uninitiated, but the interactions between all of the main cast members remain true to their televised selves. Some padding issues aside in the latter half of the tale, ‘Iterations of I’ gives Adric some welcome time in the limelight while perhaps also foreshadowing what was to come in ‘Earthshock.’
The sound effects and design truly evoke the style of the early 80s adventures, and the cast adequately recaptures their characters as if they had never been apart, even as those characters are trying to find themselves in the first story. High-quality scripting and guest actors helped make the return of Adric well worth the wait, and hopefully more adventures with Matthew Waterhouse will follow in the future.