Released June 2016
This is quickly becoming the month of John Dorney at Big Finish. Having scripted the hotly-anticpated ‘The Two Masters’ in the main range, he is also the author of this month’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures tale ‘The Trouble with Drax,’ this time focusing on a lesser-known but nonetheless Time Lord acquaintance. Sadly, due to the untimely passing of Barry Jackson, the original Drax actor in ‘The Armageddon Factor,’ the role has been recast with Ray Brooks taking the mantle, and luckily he is able to effortlessly channel the cheeky roguishness perfectly, paying homage to Jackson’s version while making the role his own.
‘The Trouble with Drax’ evokes the tone of many classic caper tales, Drax forcefully enlisting the Doctor’s and Romana’s help to acquire some important information from Altrazar, a planet described as a mythical sort of temporal Atlantis. Apparently, by officially not existing, Altrazar has become the perfect place for the rich and powerful to hide their secrets, and businessman Charles Kirkland desperately wants to find way of destroying his rival in business, Galdron Cabot. With only time-sensitive races able to discern Altrazar’s existence, he enlists Drax as part of his team, setting events into motion.
Of course, Dorney has proven to be a master of scripting, able to keep plot twists and surprises coming right until the very end, and ‘The Trouble with Drax’ proves no exception. What seems to be a straightforward tale of thievery morphs over and over again, continually changing into something different despite being firmly rooted in the same premise. This not only mirrors Drax as a character, but Time Lords as a whole, and there is a nice sense of reflection of these essences throughout. There are several mysteries that will keep the audience guessing until the very end, and even if some of the plot points do seem well-trodden due to countless other heist stories in various media, Drax is so inherently likable despite his somewhat ruthless behaviour that one can’t help but root for him.
As always, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are on top form, and the continued mentioning of the Black Guardian’s pursuit surely means that another confrontation is upcoming, especially with Romana disparaging the Doctor’s irresponsibility in not utilizing the Randomizer as he should. Despite this not being the most serious or story-laden of plots, Dorney still gives all of the supporting characters plenty to do in vital scenes, and the performers all rise to the task spectacularly. Ray Brooks’s Drax is undoubtedly the star of this release, but Hugh Fraser’s Kirkland, John Challis’s Rosser, John Leeson’s Cabot in addition to his usual K9, and Miranda Raison’s Inspector McCormick who is determined to bring in the fugitive Drax to justice round out a stunningly strong guest cast; like the story’s events itself, many identities are called into question as the story progresses, further adding to the layers of intrigue.
There are certainly elements in ‘The Trouble with Drax’ that overlap those in ‘The Two Masters,’ and so the near-simultaneous release of the two is a bit odd. Fortunately, the character of Drax is wholly unique and full of surprises and the tone sufficiently different that this one easily stands on its own merits, another strong addition to The Fourth Doctor Adventures range as the Doctor, in a rare occurrence, doesn’t necessarily hold the upper hand when events conclude.