The Wanderer

Posted in Audio by - May 30, 2019
The Wanderer

Released April 2012

Returning to Earth’s past as the First Doctor era was so wont to explore, Richard Dinnick’s ‘The Wanderer’ sees the TARDIS arrive in nineteenth century Siberia just as a shooting star plunges to the ground. As the Doctor and Susan fall victim to a mysterious illness accompanying it, however, Ian must prevent the ultimate knowledge from falling into the wrong hands to save the future and just possibly find a way home to London in 1963.

‘The Wanderer’ is a story that underwent a significant amount of change from its first draft that initially featured Nostradamus due to Big Finish’s main range incorporating that historical figure around the same time, and whether intended or not the resulting attempts to hide Rasputin’s identity until the grand reveal are somewhat tenuous. While it is true that Ian is a science teacher by trade and so may not have Barbara’s implicit knowledge of history, a man named Grigory living in Siberia who allegedly has visions and has earned the moniker of the mad monk can realistically only be one person. Fortunately, despite its predictability that foretells its inevitability, ‘The Wanderer’ still presents a fascinating moral discussion about the jeopardy of altering established events that quite rightly references the Doctor’s famed speech in ‘The Aztecs’ in which he insists that not one line of history can be changed.

Ian and Grigori quickly form a mutual respect for each other, and Grigory’s willingness to open up about his own history and beliefs certainly fleshes out this unique setting and culture quite effectively. In fact, Ian finds something of a kindred spirit in his new friend who is so open-minded and yet skeptical about Ian’s claims that he has seen Earth’s past and future, but that camaraderie is quickly put to the test when Grigory learns that an alien device has driven those who have touched it mad because of the influx of information about Earth’s future it delivers. Grigory has always wanted to help others, but his ambition and utter hunger for knowledge are ultimately his defining characteristics, causing him to risk possible madness and death to acquire the ultimate knowledge that will put him closer to God than any human has ever come. To his credit, he does not shy away from mentioning the likes of Hitler and the Holocaust as aspects he could help the world avoid with his own knowledge, and although it’s unlikely that Doctor Who in the 1960s would have had such blunt discussions about real-life events, these help to further bolster the strength of the argument as the Doctor condemns Grigory’s opportunism and thievery. As written, the role of Grigory is one that an actor could have easily taken over the top, but Tim Chipping gives a measured and effectively escalating performance throughout that maintains an immense degree of humanity at all stages.

As Ian and Grigory switch their purported roles of primitive and prescient, full credit must also be given once again to William Russell who once more gives a sterling performance as both Ian and the First Doctor. Ian is able to indulge in his scientific inquisitiveness, and the respect he has formed for the Doctor and his beliefs at this point is resolute even as Grigory’s arguments make absolute logical sense and as he finds himself so close and yet still so very far away from his own time. Likewise, Russell captures the beguiling combination of charm, intelligence, and indignation that made the First Doctor such a captivating and dynamic character, and the mature tones and content of the plot are the perfect match for his vocal stylings. Also making the most of its stark and unique environment that the direction and sound design accentuate to its fullest, ‘The Wanderer’ is a thrilling look back at some of the earliest underlying themes of Doctor Who that overcomes the predictability stemming from its famed historical figure and plot to deliver something wholly enthralling from Ian’s standpoint.

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