Written By: Andrew Smith, Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley
David Bradley (The Doctor), Claudia Grant (Susan), Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright), & Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton)
There is something so lovely about the David Bradley-led First Doctor Adventures. Big Finish has perfectly captured that era. The pacing is perfect, the tone of the episodes, the music, down to David Bradley’s cadence as the Doctor…it all just oozes the earliest days of the series. In this latest installment we get two four part tales. The first is a direct sequel to the first Dalek story called Return to Skaro. The second, The Last of the Romanovs, lands the TARDIS in another pure historical, this time in Russia in the lead up to the Bolsheviks killing the Royal Family and taking over.
It is an odd thing when Big Finish only has two stories in a set, as is the norm for the Bradley First Doctor series, because they have to choose between leading with their big draw episode, or leading with the more low key historical episode. They seem to continually choose to start off with the big episode, this time featuring the Daleks, and then ending with the Russian adventure. As much as it may be harder to draw in listeners with a slower paced historical story, it seems like ending with the big Dalek tale might make more sense. But then again, with only two stories, you can’t have much filler and building a set is a different beast entirely. I suppose I am just used to the slow build-ups of longer sets.
That all said the draw of the set is, of course, the Daleks. And it is a solid adventure that feels like it could definitely be an adventure with the villains set in between the first and second television stories. It is definitely the better of the two adventures in this set. The second story is decent, and I have a certain fascination with the beginning of the Soviet Union, but it is a classic historical in every sense: it is somewhat slow and forgettable. It does end on a cliffhanger, with the TARDIS seemingly dead and unable to move on.
David Bradley’s performance is something I can barely wrap my head around. He doesn’t actually sound anything like William Hatnell. He also isn’t trying to do an outright impression, but his own interpretation of the role. Yet he nails it. He just captures the essence of Hartnell. He isn’t like The Five Doctor’s Richard Hurndall, who while not awful mostly captured the cantankerous side of the First Doctor. But Bradley has that spark that made Hartnell so beloved by the children of the 60s. The actors playing the companions also do a fairly good job recapturing their 1960s counterparts (though something always feels slightly off about Susan for me).
Bottom line: if you love the earliest era of the show, and you have enjoyed the recasted adventures thus far, then you will no doubt enjoy this one too.