Released January 2015
Following the adaptation of the well-received but oft-forgotten The New Adventures novel ‘The Highest Science,’ Big Finish turns its sights to Virgin’s The Missing Adventures range to bring the genuine classic ‘The Romance of Crime’ to the audio medium. As the Fourth Doctor, Romana, and K9 land on Uva Beta Uva system’s court and prison asteroid The Rock of Judgment, they quickly become entangled in a maverick lawman’s plans as a deadly secret that asks some very uncomfortable questions begins to reveal itself.
‘The Romance of Crime’ does not shy away from the intrinsic comedy of the era it is set in, but it offers a decidedly darker hue thanks to the incredibly grim atmosphere of the prison surrounded by the vacuum of space. Yet it’s also full of wonderful characters and ideas, the artist Stokes dedicating himself to capturing the souls of condemned prisoners in his works a macabre example. Unfortunately, his Helicon casting of the face of war criminal Xais- a genius who destroyed 2,000 people in two years with a penchant for crushing individuals where they stand- has given her a second lease on life and once more puts the universe under threat. The conspiracy behind Xais’s role in shocking events that unfolds dovetails nicely with career man Spiggot’s investigations as each character is drawn into question, and it’s a testament to actress Miranda Raison that Margot- in the midst of a breakdown- comes off as both unpredictable and sympathetic without ever giving into temptation and going too over-the-top.
Strangely but welcomingly, ‘The Romance of Crime’ has captured the very essence of the Fourth Doctor era better than The Fourth Doctor Adventures audio range has yet managed, a testament to the breadth and scope a novel allows even if it is condensed to a two-hour running time. Tom Baker is at his animated best, the Doctor reveling in the opportunity to enthusiastically explore without being under suspicion once Spiggot instantly offers him a cover story. As the Doctor plays up his facetiousness, commanding attention only when necessary, though, it is Romana who must undertake a significant investigation of her own, and Lalla Ward does well at bringing the Time Lady’s stern warmth to life wonderfully as Romana proves unafraid to do whatever needs to be done. ‘The Romance of Crime’ marks a most welcome reunion for this excellent season seventeen crew, even if Baker and Ward did not attend the same recordings.
There truly is a wealth of imagination and depth on display that is highlighted with sparkling dialogue and interesting characters, and the adaptation manages to juggle the many plot threads deftly without ever losing sense of its pace or purpose. Big Finish is no stranger to delving into nostalgia, and this range of novel adaptations unabashedly holds that as its mission statement, but even after all of these years since the novel’s release ‘The Romance of Crime’ still holds a sense of freshness and vitality about it that doesn’t always make its way into other releases that look to the past. The inclusion of the Ogrons, loudly proclaimed on the cover, will perhaps cater to some more than others as the mental incapacity of these once-feared monsters is brought to the forefront, and the ending may be just a bit rushed after such a deeply rewarding story, but ‘The Romance of Crime’ is a spectacular dramatization that successfully opens the world of The Missing Adventures to a new medium.