Released February 2010
By no means the fault of Big Finish, The Lost Stories range is invariably going to be one with a wide range in the overall quality of stories produced. After all, these early stories were completed for the television medium, and though necessary changes need to be made when adapting for the audio medium, the overall spirit and context of the overall story must remain as truthful as possible to the source material. Yet while the highly visual nature of a story such as ‘Leviathan’ excels within the audio medium due to the immense intrigue and ambience that heighten the imagery, ‘The Hollows of Time’ does not have that same atmosphere and would essentially need a complete rewrite to transfer its visuals to audio without the necessity of an overabundance of descriptive dialogue that unfortunately plagues this release.
Full credit must be given to original writer and audio adpater Christopher H Bidmead for crafting a logical story that is anything but straightforward, and ‘The Hollows of Time’ will certainly challenge even the most avid fans as they piece together what is happening. Unfortunately, there is no real flow to events, and the plot largely consists of characters repeating the plot developments to each other, these lengthy dialogue-laden segments interspersed with spurts of running and more dialogue in the form of narration. The Doctor is certainly no stranger to talking to himself, but multiple characters partaking in this action is jarring even within this already-disjointed story that doesn’t have an engaging idea around which to base its plot. The quantum gravity machine sounds impressive and the Doctor certainly seems to understand what it is capable of, but its potential is never adequately explained for the audience, perhaps something a television serial could get away with through visual effects but a glaring oversight in the audio medium that thrives off of listeners’ imagination based on revealed facts.
Regrettably, the odd decision to rely on narration to drive vast swaths of the plot rears its head even with the returning Tractators, themselves one of Bidmead’s own creations. Following ‘Frontios,’ the Tractators and their leader, the Gravis, are immensely intriguing foes with an incredible skill set. However, there are no actual conversations heard between the Doctor and the Gravis here; instead, all of this information is relayed through second-hand accounts, and even the general Tractators are written as little more than grunting oafs. At the same time, the mystery behind the mysterious Professor Stream is somewhat unsatisfying. The commonplace use of anagrams at the time this story was intended to air blatantly states who this character is meant to be, but the character’s identity remains open-ended here due to Big Finish being unable to acquire permission to use that familiar foe’s name. To be fair, Professor Stream does work as a character in his own right and helps to drive the plot forward, but playing up the mystery behind him without being able to deliver the answer is somewhat odd nonetheless.
The actors all give full effort, but their willingness to admit that they didn’t fully understand the plot does not bode well for the release in general. Yet as strong as the caliber of acting is and as valiant as the efforts of the sound designer, director, and producer are, the script of ‘The Hollows of Time’ still cannot overcome the transition to audio and ends up leading to an uneven affair that offers only hints at a far greater realization of this story were it not in this particular range.