In a bumper September, Big Finish released Philip Hinchcliffe Presents, a chance to reunite what some people believe to be possibly the show’s strongest team of Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and their then producer Philip Hinchcliffe.
The release comprises two stories over five discs (plus extras). Was the trip into the past worth the effort and do the stories work?
Philip Hinchcliffe wrote both stories and they were adapted by Marc Platt.
First is the six-part epic tale of Victorian drama, faith-healing, African mystery and alien terror, The Ghosts of Gralstead:
The Doctor and Leela return to Victorian London, in the year 1860.
At St Clarence’s Hospital, respected surgeon Sir Edward Scrivener requires the bodies of the dead… At Doctor McDivett’s Exhibition of Living Wonders and Curiosities, miracles are afoot… And in Gralstead House, the ghost will walk again. Mordrega has come to Earth…
Although six parts is rare for Big Finish, the team pulls this wide-screen, full cast story off with no drop of pace at any time. We explore body snatching, faith healing and the many secrets of the Scrivener family. The tale takes its time to establish character and there are many great performances including Carolyn Seymour’s Mordrega. I could list most of the cast for special mention, including the whole Scrivener family, and …
There are several sub-plots and they come to their respective conclusions as the story progresses. If there is any minor quibble it is that the ending doesn’t quite reach the heights that it might have and felt inevitable.
Second up is the four-part The Devil’s Armada.
The TARDIS lands in Sissenden Village in the sixteenth century. Catholic priests are hunted, so-called witches are drowned in the ducking-stool, and in the shadows the Vituperon are watching… and waiting…
[pullquote]Jamie Newall is very impressive[/pullquote]
This is an exquisitely crafted, multi-layered tale of Spanish War, social injustice, Catholic persecution, witchcraft and oppression of women and the poor. Even a bubbly performance from Beth Chalmers only brings a chink of light to a very dark time in history. Jamie Newall is very impressive as the evil (in our terms) henchman of the Queen who on a whim breaks down doors, tortures people and has them executed. Onto this is a deeper story of the alien, imp-like Vituperons.
At one stage I thought the ending would be a reprise of the classic Star Trek story The Corbomite Maneuvre [US spelling] – it wasn’t but still impressed.
[pullquote]everything the Fourth Doctor should be[/pullquote]
Big stories, big cast, big performances, great directing and wonderful soundscape. Louise is great but Tom is magnificent, turning in his best performances of recent years. As someone who didn’t like the Hornet’s Nest range from BBC Audio this is everything the Fourth Doctor should be.
I have to conclude that this is the best Fourth Doctor release Big Finish has so far produced and is up there with the very best of the Tom Baker’s work with the Doctor in any medium at any time.
In a year with many good releases, this is one of the best.