1 out of 2 found this review helpful.
The Renaissance Man is one of those Chinese puzzle box stories: it's starts off as one thing, and quickly breaks down those preconceptions until your left with no clue as to what's going to happen next. Occasionally, this does come across as sloppy writing on Justin Richards' part, but I think it's a feeling not helped by the brevity of the piece. After all, with only an hour to tell your story, it can feel like it's just going too fast. However, I do feel Richards handles the shifts in tone and setting well, managing to convey an awful lot across the listener in such a short space of time. The whole idea of someone who wants to know everything isn't really new, but here Richards uses this to explore the idea of knowledge carrying responsibility. It actually ends up being more thought provoking than perhaps he intended, but I feel that this works. The best Who stories do actually linger on in the mind after they've been experienced, and this is no exception. However, it never threatens to become over the top or too moralistic, instead keeping the pace light and the humour free-flowing. This particularly is the case with Tom Baker, who gets some wonderful one liners, and puts in one of his strongest Big Finish performances to this day, really recapturing the magic of 1977 and then some. The turn from humour to darkness that Tom used to portray has been excellently recaptured, and he's ably supported by Louise Jameson and the rest of the cast. Louise once more nails how Leela was back in the 70's, and while Leela doesn't have as much to do as in other stories, she still acquits herself well. The reason as to why Leela is a little sidelined is perhaps obvious: because of the rapport between Tom Baker and Ian McNiece. While TV viewers know him as the sweet Winston Churchill, us Big Finish veterans will remember his star turn in the Paul McGann story Immortal Beloved. And once more, he proves to us that he can make an excellent villain as well as an excellent Winston Churchill. Harcourt is a good old fashioned villain in the traditional sense: he spars with the Doctor, is ruthlessly evil, and is quite happy to simply drop people when they aren't needed. And while the twist about the Morovanian Museum is guessable, the twist about who Harcourt really is is fantastic. I really didn't see that one coming, and was shocked by where it took the story next. Special plaudits must also go to Gareth Armstrong, although to say why would ruin the ending. The rest of the cast are excellent, giving suitably different levels of performance to match the changing tone and setting. Jamie Robertson's music and sound design are sublime, once more sounding like a lost soundtrack from the 70's. In all, The Renaissance Man is a deviously complex Doctor Who story, with some fantastic moments and some really, really amazing ideas. A real cracker.