THE SHADOW OF LONDON by Justin Richards
"Good grief - it looks as if we are too late..."
The TARDIS materialises in the backstreets of London in the 1940s. Whilst K9 entertains himself in the time ship's library, the Doctor takes Leela for a walk in the streets.
But England’s capital is oddly quiet. There are no cars and very few pedestrians... whilst those people they do meet appear really quite English indeed. And all the while they are monitored by cameras feeding images into a secret control room.
Something strange is happening in the city. Traitors are running wild... and nothing and no-one are quite as they seem.
Whilst listening to The Shadow of London, with the Doctor and Lela wandering around the uncannily quiet streets of London, I was reminded on The Android Invasion. In fact, that very story is fleetingly referenced by the Doctor himself, so it wasn’t just me that noticed the parallels.
This episode has plenty of twists and turns, so I don’t want to reveal too much. I will though say that the monster in this is fantastic. A slobbering, growling, roaring beast that is absolutely perfect for this era of the show. The thought of it stalking you through the empty streets of London is rather unsettling. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on absolute top form. Darren Boyd makes for a deliciously duplicitous villain (or is he?). The story, by Justin Reynolds, could have easily been crafted by the great Terrance Dicks.
The Shadow of London is a great opener to this second part of Tom Baker's Series Seven with Big Finish.
THE BAD PENNY by Dan Starkey
In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite... which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.
When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.
Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel.
You can check in... but you can never leave.
As with the previous story, The Bad Penny would not only fit perfectly into season fifteen of the classic show, but it also has a rather repulsive and brilliantly imagined monster - a time feasting parasite, which has created a tear in time that stretches across two hundred years.
Dan Starkey (who needs no introduction), is on writing duties (and acting duties), and weaves a wonderfully taut story, that could so easily have folded in on itself under the complications of the paradoxes that it creates. The mental image that he conjures of the aforementioned creature is fantastic, all teeth and tentacles, it is something that the budget of the time could never have imagined, but thanks to some fantastic writing, in my mind's eye, it was terrifying.
The cast are all top notch, with the late Keith Barron being the standout as Lord Tulip, a delicious caricature of a working-class man who has been pushed over the edge by desperation.
The Bad Penny is a finely crafted time travel story, with a few lovely twists.
KILL THE DOCTOR! by Guy Adams
Umm...."Kill the Doctor!"
The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the data-stream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.
But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.
Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s data-stream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?
Kill The Doctor follows the familiar pattern of being the first two parts of a four-part story. So when the Doctor and Leela land on Drummond and find that the fashion of choice is Egyptian chic, it doesn’t come as any surprise, as we know that Sutekh himself will be soon making an appearance.
The story’s driving force is Rene.net, - a powerful wireless network that will let Sutekh to convince the population of Drummond to turn on the Doctor. The actual concept of Drummond itself, is quite a modern one, with the population having to rely heavily on handheld phones that are powered by Rene.net. The whole population wandering the streets with their heads down, staring at their phone screen is, of course, a worryingly familiar image.
Sutekh makes his appearance through Rania - The Girl In The Fireplce's Sophia Myles - who plays the tortured soul very well.
The Doctor and Leela are split up quite early in the story. Leela is paired with Kendra, a girl who lives hand to mouth, the Doctor is sidetracked, having to find a new scanner for the TARDIS.
Sadly though Kill The Doctor is more filler than thriller, a taste of what Sutekh can do before the main event that follows.
THE AGE OF SUTEKH by Guy Adams
"Of course I have a plan.....it involves a screwdriver.....and a LOT of running."
The world has changed. And the evil Osiran Sutekh is returning.
As blood sacrifices and worship boost the strength of the God of War, servicer robots walk the streets, killing those who have not converted.
Leela is working with the homeless population of the city, while the Doctor co-operates with the police.
A brutal battle is ready to begin. And if the Doctor and his friends fail, everyone in the galaxy will perish.
And here we have it. A proper, classic villain taking centre stage in a rematch with the fourth Doctor. Gabriel Woolf is back as the ancient Osiran. who is at first weak, but still very dangerous. Thanks to Rene.net he quickly changes Drummond into the image of Osiris, also transforming the local security team into Osiran Server Robots, who are, of course, disguised as mummies.
The story quickly ratchets up the tension from the opening two episodes, with the Doctor being helped by PC Joyce, who is a wonderfully written character that provides a lot of much needed comic relief, 17011 is obviously relishing this gift of a role.
The writer, Guy Adams has, with these last two episodes, crafted a fine followup to a much loved, classic story.
To sum up - Series Seven, Volume Two of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, carries on the excellent run of stories from the first volume and is well worth your time and money.