The Hollow Crown

Posted in Audio by - May 02, 2021
The Hollow Crown

Released April 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Sarah Grochala pens the historical entry of The First Doctor Adventures Volume Five with ‘The Hollow Crown,’ landing the TARDIS in 1601 Shoreditch while the Doctor suggests taking in a play at the Globe Theatre. While William Shakespeare has found success as a playwright, however, he and his personal troubles stand at the centre of a turbulent era with rebellion in the air and violence in the streets.

Events here follow the Tenth Doctor’s own adventures in this era, and while it’s unfortunate that the same actors previously used as William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I do not reprise their roles to offer a greater sense of cohesion to the larger Doctor Who universe, the inclusion of reactions stemming from a future incarnation so early in the Doctor’s travels is a unique backdrop that never feels too intrusive or cumbersome. Instead, the Doctor and his companions quickly find themselves embroiled in the intensifying politics of the time, confronting another situation in which they know that history cannot be changed and coming to terms with the fact that the records of the era will be written and skewed by the victors. There is plenty of time to reflect on previous historical exploits like ‘The Aztecs’ and ‘Last of the Romanovs,’ and the uncensored version of Richard II that is causing such a stir in the populace with the Queen put in some political figures’ metaphorical crosshairs is a strong foundation for this drama that reminds its characters and its listeners of the immediate and enduring power of words and art when most singular actions and thoughts are either unknown to the masses or else forgotten to time.

Grochala expertly toys with the notion that not every detail from history is recorded, and the inclusion of a second son of Shakespeare proves to be a a surprising strength as Shakespeare himself continues to confront the grief he still has from losing his first. Jude truly takes on a starring role by feeding into the pervasive revolutionary air while questioning any subservience to the Queen, and while the ultimate truth behind Jude is hardly surprising given the history that is known about Shakespeare and this set’s own credits, Jude proves to be a fitting mirror for Susan as both try to come to terms with their individual worlds and how others are able to manipulate events within them. Lauren Cornelius and Claudia Grant form a dynamic pairing, and the fractured relationship between father and child that is slowly repaired over the course of these events is a fitting backdrop that maintains a personal degree of humanity in events that could otherwise become all talk with little personal investment. Just as importantly, Wendy Craig imbues her Queen Elizabeth I with an indisputable wisdom and understated dignity that balances the core conflict by giving meaningful voice to both sides once she is introduced in the latter half, and the political drama that again tests the Doctor’s companions’ beliefs and duty to history becomes another standout the likes of which Doctor Who has explored before but that nonetheless remains wholly engaging.

David Bradley, Claudia Grant, Jamie Glover, and Jemma Powell continue to excel in their roles that are each filled with a perfect blend of determination, morality, and questioning, and the stories afforded this alternative First Doctor team continue to proudly stand along the best featuring those involved with the true Hartnell era. ‘The Hollow Crown’ may not be the most original historical tale that Doctor Who and Big Finish have undertaken, but the superb performances, direction, and sound design ensure that this range has plenty of life left and can absolutely continue to delve into Earth’s history without a true science fiction element in the plot to remarkable effect.

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