Written By: Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Cast: Maureen O'Brien (Vicki), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor/The Doctor/Narrator), Mark Frost (Niccolo Machiavelli), Jamie Ballard (Guiliano de Medici), Robert Hands (Pope Leo X), Olivia Poulet (Carla),
Joe Bor (Guard Captain).
Big Finish Productions - Released November 2016
This month’s offering in this mini-season of First Doctor stories sees Ian and Barbara give way to Steven Taylor, once again reprised by Peter Purves who also vocalises William Hartnell’s Doctor and provides most of the story's narration. He is joined for this historical adventure by Maureen O’Brien, who once again brings the youthful Vicki to life as if she were only on television last year rather than fifty years ago.
A failed attempt by the Doctor to take his companions to the 2784 Olympics results in them instead finding themselves in early 16th century Florence, where the TARDIS just so happens to land in the cellar of a house belonging to none other than Niccolo Machiavelli, a man whose infamous reputation in print, largely exceeds his actual achievements.Mark Frost gives an enjoyable performance as Machiavelli who is by turns charming and devious as he attempts to regain favour in the eyes of the influential Medici family who are represented in this story by Guiliano de Medici, ruler of Florence and his brother, the newly elected Pope Leo X.
The two brothers make an enjoyable double-act of contrasting characters. Jamie Ballard is ruthlessly cutthroat as Guiliano whilst Robert Hands gets to enjoy being a clever pontiff who forms an interesting friendship with Vicki. This allusion to Leo X’s historical reputation as “the gay Pope” is only hinted at, but this is one of several moments that make this story feel that it is not quite as contemporary to the TV series of 1965 as some of the other Early Adventures releases. There are some fun scenes with the Guard Captain played by Joe Bor, although his estuary accent seems a little out of place compared to the other RP speaking characters who are more typical of the TV series.
There are definite shades of Dennis Spooner in this story although thankfully it does not at any point descend to the level of farce experienced in The Romans. It is welcome to see that Big Finish have encouraged new writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky to produce a story of a not often visited area of history.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable historical tale with a strong cast which occasionally feels a little more post-modern than the 1965 series it is attempting to emulate. However, it is nonetheless a welcome addition to this range.