Released October 2015
Following ‘The Yes Men,’ ‘The Forsaken’ continues exploring the truly early era of the Second Doctor, again bringing to life the full three-companion team of Ben, Polly, and Jamie. The prime achievement of The Early Adventures compared to the previous Companion Chronicles range is that these tales are allowed more time to breathe and offer a richer experience since every character is allowed a direct share of the action alongside a bigger supporting cast. Since Ben has finally been given a voice again thanks to Elliot Chapman’s impressive impersonation of Michael Craze, this scope is particularly meaningful as some deeper insight into Ben and Polly still trying to understand this new Doctor can be provided, something not really touched on since ‘The Power of the Daleks.’
In fact, this sentiment of uncertainty and new friendships is laced throughout the story, an apt complement to the overbearing feelings of fear and mistrust that pervade the plot. Set on an island off Singapore and featuring a group of stranded World War II soldiers clinging to hope for evacuation, ‘The Forsaken’ fittingly maintains a menacing and oppressive atmosphere as an unknown entity meticulously kills the island locals and soldiers one by one, reducing each to a petrified shadow of him or herself before death takes hold.
Like the preceding release, the TARDIS group is split into the same groupings with Ben and Jamie exploring the jungle and the Doctor and Polly staying behind to research the mystery at hand. This is very much an early Polly, one who has not yet taken on the more active role she would later in the Troughton era, but it is still nice to hear her express a desire to do more, sowing the seeds for later events. This does, inevitably, leave her as the one to be terrorised by the alien being, but it also gives Anneke Wills some standout scenes displaying heightened emotion and determination.
The rest of the team is just as well realised. Frazer Hines continues his impressive work as both Jamie and the Second Doctor; aside from a couple of lines during a manic conversation between the two characters where the Doctor sounds just a bit off, it remains difficult to believe that the great Patrick Troughton is not sitting in the recording booth. Likewise, Elliot Chapman continues to hit all of the right notes and inflections and Ben Jackson, particularly important as the script allows a unique insight into Ben’s past and motivations when he runs into his father from a time before his birth, and the necessary balance of wanting to be open while needing to remain secretive is played perfectly.
The enlarged cast size actually proves crucial to the atmosphere of the storyline as the sheer volume of characters sells the restricted space and resultant feeling of claustrophobia, especially as an intensifying fear and mistrust overtake the remaining island inhabitants. There is plenty of misdirection and mystery in maintaining the unknown identity of who or what the threat really is, and the payoff and reveal is worth the wait and anticipation. While this is very much a Second Doctor story exploring early versions of established characters, there is still a sense of modernity around it that should make it accessible to and enjoyable for any listener.