Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 7/12/17 6:01 pm
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In the latest Fourth Doctor Adventures story, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) have arrived in 1980's London, looking to relax for a bit. As Romana flips through the TV channels, she finds an interview with a local archaeologist who has unearthed a mysterious device that the two Time Lords recognize as a Movellan power pack. Soon, the Doctor and Romana are tangled up in a historic incident, with the Movellans about to unveil a secret weapon in their war against the Daleks. But this weapon may just destroy the world, if the Doctor and Romana aren't able to stop it. The Movellan Grave is an enjoyable story. It's got a strong guest cast, not least Lalla Ward as Romana, and writer Andrew Smith was able to deliver an interesting story. A new weapon in the war between the Movellans and the Daleks is an excellent way to bring our favorite disco-inspired androids into the Big Finish fold.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward return as the Doctor and Romana. Baker is strong throughout the story as the fourth incarnation of the Doctor. He's grandiose with his performance, but it's still a thoroughly enjoyable performance throughout. I've always admired the comedic timing Baker possesses, and it's wonderful to hear that age hasn't dulled that at all. But the real star of this story was Lalla Ward as Romana. I've said in previous reviews that one of my complaints is that the Romana II of the Fourth Doctor Adventures isn't anything like the Romana II we saw on TV. Age obviously changes the voice, but the Romana II of the TV series had a more (for lack of a better word) "fun" aspect of her character, a slightly mischievous, laughing demeanor that hasn't really been present in the Fourth Doctor Adventures. But here, Ward makes more of an effort to sound a bit more like the Romana II of old, and I think this results in a much stronger performance. Ward plays her still exasperated by the Doctor, but I distinctly noticed that slightly mischievous streak, such as when she's chatting with the guard at the dig site, and gently mocking him. It makes me very happy that director Nick Briggs asked her to try this with her performance here, as it really elevated her performance. I'd love to see more of the "old" Romana II in audio, in the future.
The guest cast of the story was a rather strong group of actors. Leading the way were Camilla Power as Carrie Pearce, the archaeologist in charge of the Iron Age dig that uncovered the Movellan power pack, and Polly Walker as Commander Narina, the Movellan commander of the crashed ship. Pearce was an extremely enjoyable presence throughout the story, meshing very well with the Doctor and Romana, and being an enjoyable character to hear. Power was also strong as the Movellan leader Narina, and I felt she did an excellent job. She pulled off the detached android character exceedingly well in my opinion, really bringing out a strong performance. I adored her as she questioned the Doctor on basic issues of morality, or when she threatened to kill the Doctor if the archaeological team didn't act as decoys for her as she tried to defeat Chenek (Chris Jarman).
Andrew Smith delivered an extremely enjoyable script with this story, writing an enjoyable story with lots of great dialogue throughout. The story itself is fairly straightforward; alien race is found, anachronistically, to be on Earth, and so the Doctor and Romana go to figure out the mystery. The story is separated from other, similar stories, by the fact that this is the return of the Movellans at Big Finish, and so it feels more like an event story of sorts. Smith is able to really make this story so interesting because I think there's not too many Movellan stories out there. So Smith is basically given carte blanche, and he really takes that and runs with it. The story may be simple, but it's nonetheless engaging, as it gives flavor to the Movellans, by giving some insight into their war with the Daleks. I particularly liked the weapon, Chenek, that they created, as it felt like a natural progression in the war with the Daleks, but also it gave a face to that weapon in a way that some stories haven't. It made the story an existential crisis of sorts, by giving a weapon that was supposed to kill the Daleks a personality and (eventually) a conscience.
One last thing that I'd like to mention is a personal appreciation for the amount of effort Andrew Smith put into this story. As an archaeologist, it's rare to find a good representation of the field of archaeology in any form of entertainment, so hearing this story was a pleasant surprise. It was as good a representation of archaeology as one can get in a story about androids at war with unstoppable killing machines, and that's to be appreciated. The care that went into that aspect of the script really elevated this story, as it's quite obvious that Smith at least looked at an archaeological textbook or something before writing this story.
Overall, The Movellan Grave was an enjoyable story from start to finish. The story features a strong performance from Tom Baker, and an even better performance from Lalla Ward, as well as a great set of performances from the guest cast, especially Camilla Power and Carrie Pearce. Likewise, Andrew Smith delivered a strong script for this story, which I greatly appreciated for it's authenticity to archaeology. All this combined made for a great story, and one of the best stories this series, so far.