With the third series of Big Finish’s acclaimed Early Adventures range ready to launch later this month, we decided to celebrate some new/old adventures from the Big Finish team and take a look back, from amongst many excellent options, at our favourite audio adventures of William Hartnell’s First Doctor.
The TARDIS lands in Leicester Square in the summer of 1762. When the Doctor, Steven and Vicki find themselves locked out of the TARDIS, only one man can possibly help them. But the American, Benjamin Franklin, has problems of his own…
As big fans and proponents of the Doctor Who historical, any audios of that nature will automatically make the list and always evoke the era well as the Doctor and his companions get themselves into another problem in Earth’s history. Meeting Benjamin Franklin, the tale comes from the pen of Simon Guerrier, who has become something of a First Doctor specialist for Big Finish. Told at a leisurely pace, The Founding Fathers tells an intelligent and likeable tale, more in the vain of The Aztecs and other more “serious” historicals than say, The Romans. With some excellent material provided for Franklin and superb characterisation with the Doctor, The Founding Fathers is a worthy first entry on our list.
Note: Founding Fathers artwork is an unofficial piece by Si Hodges
The port of Alexandria, 5th Century AD. The Doctor, Ian, Susan and Barbara have taken a break from their travels, and are enjoying a few weeks in the sunshine – and the chance to appreciate the magnificent Library of Alexandria. Ian also takes the chance to enjoy friendship with the philosopher Hypatia – but things here will not last forever. The time travellers know that the library will soon be lost to history. What they are about to discover is the terrifying reason why…
Keeping the historical and Simon Guerrier theme running, The Library of Alexandria takes the existing First Doctor historical and turns it on its head by adding sci-fi elements, the true to life era much preferring the “pure” historical. Despite historical sic-fi being a staple of Doctor Who in the modern era, it feels fresh here and the production is boosted by an excellent performances from William Russell, the elder statesman of Doctor Who. With a strong and intelligent script, as is now somewhat to be expected from Guerrier, The Library of Alexandria effectively mixes the educational historical with a big budget sci-fi spectacular feel.
The TARDIS has landed on Platform Five, a floating city in the sky of the planet Jobis, and for a time the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki get the chance to enjoy this idyllic place. And then the Rocket Men arrive, led by the sadistic Ashman. When the only other option to certain death is suicide, Ian Chesterton takes the gamble of his life…
If one Big Finish adventure could be said to have an authentic feel outside of the Lost Stories range, The Rocket Men by John Dorney might be it. Wonderfully evocative of the era in both Doctor Who and science fiction in general, The Rocket Men boasts a strong script with a A+ in characterisation, particularly with our regulars, who are as close to our television heroes as we see in the range. Lisa Bowerman gives a masterclass in direction and any audio is always boosted by her work as one of Big Finish’s prize assets. Full of personal and literary romance, William Russell once again takes the audio to new heights as reading, direction and script come together magnificently to form a very strong entry in our top ten list.
Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom is dead, her ashes strewn on the planet Kembel. But, in an old house in Ely, Sara Kingdom lives on… Now joined in the house by her confidante Robert, Sara recalls her travels in the TARDIS with the Doctor – and a particular adventure when the ship appeared to land inside a giant clock, where old men are caught in its workings… And behind this nightmare is an old enemy: Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System. Then and now, Sara’s past is catching up with her. The cogs have come full circle…
The third of four entries for Simon Guerrier on the list and the author once again show’s his mastery over the era with the final part of the Sara Kingdom trilogy which concludes events heard in Home Truths and The Drowned World, also by Guerrier. Jean Marsh once again gives a stellar performance as Sara, almost fifty years removed from her single story in the role, Jean being ably supported by Niall McGregor. With superb drama throughout, delivered once more from the direction of Lisa Bowerman, Guardians provides twists and turns aplenty. While The Guardian of the Solar System isn’t the strongest play in the trilogy, it acts a fine final segment, tying threads together successfully and concluding on a high note.
There’s a house across the waters at Ely where an old woman tells a strange story. About a kind of night constable called Sara Kingdom. And her friends, the Doctor and Steven. About a journey they made to a young couple’s home, and the nightmarish things that were found there. About the follies of youth and selfishness. And the terrible things even the most well-meaning of us can inflict on each other. Hear the old woman’s story. Then decide her fate.
We said in 2014:
“Sara Kingdom is something of a blank canvas for Big Finish, having only appeared in two episodes on-screen nearly 50 years ago and rarely featured in spin-off media since, the opportunity is there to craft a whole life story around the Space Security Service agent. Jean Marsh amazingly slips back into the role with ease, showing her immense talents as an actress, served well by what we might term First Doctor specialist Simon Guerrier. A unique and frightening idea, Home Truths is an atmospheric masterpiece that leaves the listener eager for more at it’s conclusion.”
“This is The Chesterton Exhibition. A series of breathtakingly faithful tableaux, painstakingly detailed to the nth degree. Dedicated to the life of that most extraordinary time traveller, Ian Chesterton!”
Ian finds himself in a shrine to his own past, and on the run with a man named Pendolin. From Coal Hill School to Jobis Station, from Totter’s Yard to the Crusades, Ian’s history is unfolding. And a confrontation with a deadly enemy with a voracious appetite awaits…
We Said in 2014:
“The 50th anniversary came early in 2012 as we took a trip down (Ian’s) memory lane in a fantastically nostalgic walk through the early years of the show. Any fan of the Hartnell era or William Russell’s Ian Chesterton will adore The Time Museum, this being very much Ian’s play. William Russell is a truly magnificent reader of anything put in front of him and here he is in his element, given a brilliant script harking back to the golden era of the show, revisiting the popular topic of Ian’s relationship with Barbera. A misty eyed and affectionate tribute to one of the truly great eras in Doctor Who, essential for all fans of the show in the 1960s.”
The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara land on the planet Hydra, where Admiral Jonas Kaan leads a vast flotilla of ships trying to elude the vicious race that has invaded and occupied their world. But his ships are being picked off one by one, vessels and crews dragged underwater by an unseen foe. The time travellers find themselves pitched into battle against the Voord, the ruthless enemy they last encountered on the planet Marinus. As they take the fight to the very heart of the territory now controlled by the Voord the stakes get higher. First they lose the TARDIS… then they lose that which they hold most dear. And that’s only the start of their troubles. In the capital, Predora City, they will learn the truth of what it means to be a Voord. And that truth is horrifying.
We said in 2014:
“Andrew Smith has seemingly effortlessly recreated the world of 1960s Doctor Who, yet left his own mark as he delves into the backstory of Terry Nation’s lesser creation, imbuing them with a fascistic streak and delving into the races hierarchy and assimilation of other beings into an expansionist empire. Smith, alongside director Ken Bentley, has crafted a dark and meaningful play that is full of atmosphere and nods to the past. Domain of the Voord however is more than a nostalgia piece, looking backward yet finding new ground and avenues to explore on familiar territory. Should The Early Adventures continue in this vein, we are in for a treat indeed. Domain of the Voord is one of the Big Finish highlights of the year.”
The TARDIS is drawn to a mysterious signal emanating from a seemingly dead world. Trapped within a crystalline structure, the Doctor and his friends inadvertently wake a vast army of robots that have lain dormant for many, many years. Waiting… for the Masters of Luxor. The Perfect One wants to become more than just a mockery of a man, and will stop at nothing to achieve it. But will the cost prove too great? The travellers are about to uncover a horrifying tragedy. A tragedy that threatens to engulf them all.
Possibly the most well-known “lost story” of Doctor Who‘s entire run, Anthony Coburn’s The Masters of Luxor couldn’t be more different from the author’s only televised story, An Unearthly Child. While the tale does have some inherent weaknesses, perhaps being overlong and unnecessarily padded in places, the script is highly intelligent and thought-provoking, the complex story certainly on a par with Terry Nation’s The Daleks which ultimately replaced it in the first season. A divisive script, with many fans finding it boring compared to Nation’s serial, love for The Masters of Luxor perhaps depends on individual taste. With evocative sound design however and sparkling performances from William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, to us, The Masters of Luxor is something of an underrated gem.
The TARDIS materialises in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, in the year 323 BC. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan meet Alexander the Great – but their excitement is tempered by the realization that these are the final days of Alexander’s life. As the travellers become embroiled in the tragic events, the inevitability of history unfolds around them. But can they – and should they – change it?
If there was one “lost story” that deserved to put into production, it was surely Farewell, Great Macedon, a story that could proudly have stood alongside Marco Polo during the series’ first season. A sweeping historical epic, like Marco Polo, the story takes place across months of the TARDIS traveller’s time and spans a vast distance, taking in historic locales with a painted vivid imagery. The source material, of course, puts our regulars in such authentic situations that it’s almost easy to forget you’re not listening to a genuine first season story and the performances of William Russell and Carole Ann Ford are more than equal to the task set. Comprising part of the First Doctor Box Set alongside the equally wonderful Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance, Farewell, Great Macedon is the best unproduced script from Doctor Who‘s long history and equally one of the best entries in Big Finish’s Doctor Who canon.
The TARDIS materializes in Spain in the late sixteenth century. The country is at war with England – and the travellers find themselves on the wrong side of the battle lines. When Ian and his new friend Esteban are captured by the Inquisition, the Doctor, Susan and Barbara plan to rescue them. But these are dark days in human history. And heretics face certain death…
We said in 2014:
“The early historicals have often been heralded by fans as some of the true (and many lost) classics of the original series. Big Finish have provided many a resumption, The Glorious Revolution being a prime example, but none have truly evoked the era better than The Flames of Cadiz, our number one choice as the best Big Finish Companion Chronicle.
We’ve already commented on the undiminished quality of William Russell with Big Finish (or his Target readings). That he created the role of Ian over 50 years ago now is astounding considering how effortless his performances are in the role even today, yet in Flames of Cadiz he seems to absolutely relish the wonderfully evocative script by Marc Platt, ably joined by Carole Ann-Ford as Susan to authentically recreate an era in which Flames could easily have been broadcast.
This is vintage Hartnell.
Preferring to show history for what it is – brutal and violent, this is a far cry however from The Romans or other lighter historical, here the threat is all too real, bringing home some realities for a TARDIS crew who are enjoying the wonderful spirit of adventure a little too much. In lesser hands the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition could have been played for Pythonesque laughs, not so here as Platt shows that humanity rarely learns from its past, providing us with a strong message on intolerance. There are strong shades of The Massacre here alongside The Aztecs and even Marco Polo, perfectly recreating its desired era.
Marc Platts finest contribution to Big Finish since Spare Parts.”
All the above titles are available now from BigFinish.com, click on each individual title for more information. The Flames of Cadiz can also be purchased via the Amazon link below.