The Ghosts of Gralstead
The Devil's Armada
Written By: Philip Hinchcliffe
, adapted by Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken BentleyTom Baker
as The DoctorLouise Jameson
Released September 2014
Tom Baker's Doctor has had something of a renaissance on audio since he belatedly signed up with Big Finish. The Fourth Doctor and Leela's relationship has flourished over a growing series of adventures designed to bridge Seasons Fourteen and Fifteen and evoke the spirit of '77.
Now, Philip Hinchcliffe, the producer that brought them together returns with a box set of two stories that recapture the feel of the tail-end of his era. Hinchcliffe's ideas are adapted here by Ghost Light and prolific BF scribe Marc Platt, stepping in to the shoes of Robert Holmes, evoking that era whilst bringing his own ideas to the party.
The first, The Ghosts of Gralstead is a triumph. It starts off in Victorian London, but not the familiar gaslit Ripper-in-the-fog setting that Doctor Who still does to this day - this has serious scope, and unfolds beautifully over six episodes. This goes off in different directions including Africa and back - a tale of the dead rising and dimensions opening, with faith healers, tribal warriors, grave-robbers, warring brothers, a ghost-whispering child-woman, and a grotesque 'elephant woman' with some very unsavoury appetites.
The cast is excellent. Baker is on fine, imperious form, and Jameson Leela gets not only a love interest in African hunter Abasi, but a villain she truly fears in Carolyn Seymour's deliciously evil Mordrega. Louise Jameson's performance is spot-on, the only criticism here is that her relationship with Abasi is too well-matched, considering we know she eventually chooses boring, wet Andred as a mate for no apparent reason!
The Devil's Armada is somehow less impressive. Putting the Doctor and Leela in Elizabethan times against the backdrop of the Spanish Armada, with a fanatical witchfinder, and a race of imp-like creatures stirring up the conflict.
It's a good idea, with some good dialog and performances, but it feels a little flat after Gralstead. Tom Baker is a bit more of a mixed bag here - his yokel impression in the first episode is a bit too glib and broad, but minutes later he's perhaps more furious than we ever saw him on TV and the effect is slightly jarring - Tom turned up to eleven. He's excellent when the Doctor realises he could lose the TARDIS though.
Overall, Philip Hinchcliffe Presents is a worthy experiment, here's hoping Mr Hinchcliffe has some more ideas up his sleeve.