The Outlaws

Posted in Audio by - April 13, 2022
The Outlaws

Released April 2022


As Big Finish continues to streamline its past Doctor ranges with each era more fully represented, the First Doctor has undergone another recast to breathe new life into the rarely-explored time with the Doctor and Dodo together following Steven’s departure. Although it’s not clear if David Bradley has given up the role that he has so dynamically made his own for five volumes of audio adventures after appearing on screen in An Adventure in Time and Space and ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ Stephen Noonan now takes the reigns in Lizbeth Myles’s ‘The Outlaws’ alongside Lauren Cornelius to begin this latest iteration of the man and incarnation who started it all.

Of course, any recast will bring with it a degree of both excitement and trepidation, but Big Finish has excelled in finding actors who can capably- and at times uncannily- channel the original actors who have sadly passed. Noonan is in perhaps an even more difficult position given just how many voices the First Doctor has had for Big Finish, the likes of Peter Purves and William Russell doing superb work in The Companion Chronicles and The Early Adventures and Bradley dynamically revisiting the programme’s earliest days. Each of these voices has deservedly received immense praise for particular aspects, meaning that Noonan has to- fairly or unfairly- find himself compared not only to William Hartnell but to all others who have previously done the job he has been asked to do here. Truthfully, Noonan’s voice and accent sound almost nothing like Hartnell’s, and so any listener hoping for a pitch-perfect recreation is going to be disappointed. His tone is far deeper and naturally more authoritative than Hartnell’s, and the sense of warmth and compassion that would bleed through Hartnell’s performed anger at this point in his Doctor’s tenure is often lost when Noonan’s Doctor must show his own righteous anger. However, while Noonan’s delivery of some lines is also quite faster than Hartnell’s, there is no denying just how much work Noonan has put into this role, his ability to capture many of the nuances of Hartnell’s inflections and delivery being incredibly impressive. When he slows down and pitches his voice just a bit higher, there are absolutely moments that sound like they are directly ripped out of an existing soundtrack, and hopefully these moments will become all the more frequent as Noonan continues to grow into this role.

In ‘The Outlaws,’ the Doctor and Dodo land in thirteenth-century Lincoln and quickly find themselves caught up in the battle between Sheriff Nicholaa de la Haye and nearby outlaw gangs fronted by William of Berkshire. With the Doctor and Dodo separated after taking refuge in Lincoln Castle and Dodo casually speaking treasonous thoughts based on her recollection of history, it soon becomes clear that William is not acting alone. Myles mixes in plenty of comedy to offset the inherent drama of this historical setting that takes some inspiration from the fabled endeavours of Robin Hood, and Glynis Barber is excellent as the powerful and matriarchal Sheriff trying to guide her daughter while also retaining a semblance of control over these dangerous times amid King John’s demands for funds for his war against France. There are quite a few layers to this story, and Christian Edwards, Carly Day, and Sam Stafford all ably develop these many conflicts with a tremendous range of emotion.

Interestingly given that this is Noonan’s debut story, ‘The Outlaws’ also prominently features the return of Rufus Hound’s version of the Meddling Monk as the man pulling the strings behind the outlaws’ actions. This is a man who quite boldly proclaims that he is driven primarily by revenge here, and his previous encounter with the First Doctor in ‘The Time Meddler’ certainly comes to feature quite prominently as the two eventually cross paths. Hound, as always and as needed, gives a tremendously energetic and at times over-the-top performance as the Monk, and he shares an immense chemistry with Noonan that successfully captures the weightiness of these characters’ long-standing history and rivalry. There was a danger that Hound could have easily outshone Noonan here, but the two go toe-to-toe and deliver a truly engaging experience that quickly allows Noonan to explore the depths of his Doctor against a more familiar backdrop.

Not to be diminished by any means, Lauren Cornelius is fantastic as Dodo who was written so inconsistently and fell victim to behind-the-scenes drama during her time aboard the TARDIS. Jackie Lane somehow managed to craft an endearing and memorable character that has endured despite so many of her episodes now missing from the archives, and Cornelius brings forth Dodo’s forthrightness and feistiness to ensure that Dodo is a force to be reckoned with at all times. After debuting in ‘The Secrets of Det-Sen’ in The Early Adventures, it’s clear that Dodo is a companion who can now anchor a story for Big Finish. While there are certainly some growing pains for this latest iteration of The First Doctor Adventures on display, ‘The Outlaws’ is a bold and memorable instalment that draws upon the First Doctor’s past to look to the future.

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