Farewell Great Macedon is the main story in the Lost Stories: First Doctor Box Set. Written by Moris Farhi who also originated the other story in this set The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance. The story is told by Carole Ann Ford and William Russell with John Dorney taking the part of Alexander the Great.
Told over six episodes this is a pure historical that was never commissioned. In my view it is a Classic which makes it one of the best things Big Finish has ever produced. To find out why I believe that, carry on reading…
The core story is encapsulated on the product page:
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?
The story takes its time (it has six episodes after all) and the core is that a group of conspirators are plotting to kill Alexander and the three people closest to him. This is all made worse by the fact that the TARDIS crew get to know and like Alexander (and he they) and they are also accused (several times) of being to blame for the deaths as they happen. To top it all off Barbara knows this part of history and that Alexander does die; this brings to sharp relief the classic ‘can’t change history’ that was very much the case in the time of the early Doctors.
Things come to a head when the Doctor and Ian have to prove their innocence by trial – the Doctor has to walk on hot coals and Ian has to win the wrestling championship in a funeral games.
History is the winner in this tale as one by one they are unable to save anyone and at the end have to let Alexander die but now before he learns that they are from the future and that his vision will not survive his death.
This is a rich story with many characters told by only three people which is incredible. The style if half-way between Companion Chronicle and audiobook (and I suppose therefore a bit like the Destiny of the Doctor series). Carole Ann Ford and William Russell read a lot of narrative prose switching almost every few paragraphs. At first it sounds odd but very soon adds to the feel. There are dialogue scenes with the two of them taking most parts – some as interpretations some just spoken. Then there is John Dorney’s wonderful Alexander. John is clearly very good and absolutely spot on with an immense amount of gravitas and also mercurial anger. Although this is three CDs it never drags.
The plot is extended by the need to kill off four characters but unlike other 6-part stories (eg Dalek Invasion of Earth) there isn’t any real padding.
Why is it a classic?
It’s a classic because it is a superb production of a tightly written story (I don’t know how much adaptation there was – I may update when I hear the extras). We have a period piece – time can’t be changed, the Doctor has a rich knowledge of human history and studied as a medical Doctor at some point. There is no sense that he may not be human he is just (we assume tacitly) from the future.
All aspects of the direction, acting, writing, pacing, sound and indeed everything are coherent as though everyone was in the same place mentally when this was made and all felt that this would be a great story. And it is.