Reviewed By: dtom
Review Date: 2/4/17 8:19 pm
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When Doctor Who was first devised it was meant to fulfil an educational purpose. To this end, every alternative story was supposed to explore historical events. Several of those historical serials were critically acclaimed, and Marco Polo is hailed as a lost classic. However, it became increasingly clear that the science fiction stories were more popular and following The Highlander(1966). The purely historic tale was replaced by pseudo-histories. Historic settings with sci-fi elements. Only one other purely historic serial was ever produced. The 1982 two-parter Black Orchid.
Given that, it was something of a risk to schedule a pure historical so early the ranges own brief history. To do so while introducing a brand new Big Finish exclusive companion for their least popular Doctor might have been a bridge too far. Instead we get an absolute belter of a story.
In a serial of first, Jacqueline Rayner, became the first female audio adventure writer, and the first not to have penned a Doctor Who novel prior to this.
The adventure sees the Doctor team up with a history professor to explore the reasons behind her disappearing ancestral tree during the Tudor era. The professor is Dr Evelyn Smythe, played brilliantly by Maggie Stables. Maggie’s last BF outing was less successful, but here she is utterly captivating in every scene. She almost out shines Baker’s Doctor. Almost. Here her very presence seems to lift him to another level. The interplay between them is a fantastic listen. It’s so good your disappointed that events split them apart.
However, the supporting cast make a great contribution Sean Jackson (George Crow)and Jez Fielder (William Leaf) are excellent as the misguided henchmen. Nicholas Pegg is wonderfully creepy as ‘villain’ of the piece. Jo Castleton has a relatively slight role but plays her part well. Anah Ruddin is very good as ‘bloody’ Queen Mary. Her is a difficult job. She needs to make us feel sympathy for a figure with a degree of historical notoriety, and she does so with aplomb.
The soundscape is very good and the incidental score enhances both the drama and the period. Of course, it’s not flawless. Not the least the glaring paradox that is the central premise of the whole plotline. However, I said this before. This is Doctor Who, the central premise of almost all its plots are absurd.
This is the first classic story from Big Finishes range. It’s a great jumping in point for any 6th Doctor fans. £2.99 is great value if you haven’t tried it. If you have you’ve probably already listen a good few times. If not it’s high time you went back to. The only downside for me being the overwhelming urge to eat chocolate cake.