Written By: Marc Platt, Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley
David Bradley (The Doctor), Claudia Grant (Susan), Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright), Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (The Woman), Ajjaz Awad (Princess Elissa of Tyre), Jo Ben Ayed (King Pygmalion of Tyre), Orion Ben (Aiyaruc / Hanna), Youssef Kerkour (Bitias), Raad Rawi (Tubal / Maygo / King Hiarbas of Tunis), Mina Anwar (Horl), Susie Emmett (Katta), Belinda Lang (Nocta)
Big Finish's enjoyable series of adventures following the original TARDIS team as played by the cast of An Adventure in Time and Space continues for a third boxset, one which also sees a major guest appearance of Carole Ann Ford, the original Susan Foreman, whose younger self is played by Claudia Grant in these sets. And Ford is the major draw of this set in more ways than one, as it is the story involving her that is vastly more entertaining then the first story featured here.
The first story in this one is The Phoenicians, which is a pure historical that plays on legends and myths, and explores their true origins. As classic pure historical stories go, this story features no sci-fi element beyond our heroes travelling to the past via the TARDIS. I am not a huge fan of many of these historcials, which pretty much fell out of style for the series not long after the Second Doctor took over. They only made one last attempt at a return in the early 80s, when the Fifth Doctor had a brief mystery to solve in the 1920s, with no alien threat whatsoever. But despite my own feelings that the historicals tend not to be terribly interesting, it doesn't mean I don't think they can't work. In fact I secretly hope they can return to the show someday. Not all the time, but I think it would be great to see a story where the adventure our heroes get embroiled in has nothing to do with aliens or monsters, but just the scariness of our own past. They nearly did it in this most recent season, though there was an alien presence, it was incidental to the more historical turmoil our heroes got caught up in. Someday, maybe once, Earth's ugly past can be enough for a Doctor Who threat again.
That all said, this story is about as middle of the road and bland as so many historicals of the past had been. I just couldn't get into it, no matter how charming and likable I find the new versions of the original TARDIS crew.
Luckily, the other story in the set, Tick-Tock World, is top notch entertainment. With the TARDIS caught up in a planet that messes with time ships, which leaves the gang stranded in a place where time moves in mysterious ways, and ghosts of the past and future can appear and screw with them. This is where Ford comes into play, as a mysterious figure that they all see. I doubt I am spoiling it for anyone as to who Ford turns out to be. If you don't know that from the word go then I don't know how you ended up listening to a story based entirely on the show as it was in 1963. I just found this to be a really engaging story, and it felt like the kind of story that could have fit in really well with Big Finish's ongoing Time War tales, yet with that 60s flair that they capture so well with this cast.
David Bradley is really a top notch replacement for William Hartnell. He doesn't sound anything like him really, but the way he pauses and hems and haws, and stutters through his lines, it is truly like he captured the essence of the First Doctor. Hartnell did most of it due to aging, ailing health, a giant year round workload with little to no rehearsal time...but that is part of what I find charming about the First Doctor. Bradley captures it so well, but does it in his own way. I definitely prefer this way of creating new 60s style Who to someone just doing an impression.
I find this set to be somewhat harder to recommend, at least at full price. The first story is by no means awful, but it isn't really worth much either. The second story is tremendous though, which is what makes up for the whole set. I'd say it was worth it just for that, but maybe at a sale price. If Big Finish set has 4 stories and only one is kind of a clunker, I usually can justify the price. But with only 2 stories, the cost is essentially $10 a story, and I don't think The Phoenicians is worth $10. Is Tick-Tock World? Absolutely. And that's from a guy who was never much of a fan of Susan or Carole An Ford's performance in the 60s shows. If you've enjoyed these First Doctor set so far? It is a safer bet for you, for newcomers, I think start with the earlier sets and see if you want to spend the extra money on half of a good boxset.