The third tale in The Syndicate Masterplan Volume 1 takes the Fourth Doctor and new companion Ann Kelso to Victorian England for Ann’s first journey into history, though the story starts with the TARDIS already having been in London before it makes its way to Nottinghamshire and an encounter with The Enchantress of Numbers, Ada Lovelace (played by Finty Williams). It’s a fine tale with many pleasing elements from the 1970s and all in the capable hands of Simon Barnard and Paul Morris.
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The Enchantress of Numbers
The Big Finish product page has this to say:
The TARDIS lands in the grounds of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, in 1850. Mistaken for a medic and his maid, the Doctor and Ann are brought to meet Ada Lovelace – the mother of computing and daughter of Lord Byron – who has recently fallen ill.But the travellers are not here by chance. Something odd is happening on Earth, and they’ve determined that this place is the centre of it.Strange figures are walking the land. Strange figures wearing bird-like masks. What do they want with Ada? And how will it change the future of humanity?
The story is all about Ada Lovelace and her talent for mathematics neatly taken to a Doctor Who story in a way that is obvious once you hear it, but would be a spoiler too far to reveal now. History though is under threat, the Doctor and Ann need all the help they can get, thankfully Mr Hobhouse (a wonderful character played with real pizazz by Barnaby Edwards) the servant is on hand to add a little help here and there. Aside from the central what is happening to history story, The Enchantress of Numbers gives insight into Ada Lovelace, her importance in history and does so without too much exposition.
Part of the plot does take into account Ada’s early ideas that would become computer programming, and there is a blurring of the lines between languages and programs, and it also seemed to me Ann Kelso was more familiar with computers than I’d expect someone from 1978 to be. These are small complaints in a great tale too quickly over.
The story doesn’t seem to move the boxset arc any further forward, and with the previous Planet of the Drashigs is more about Ann Kelso getting to grips with TARDIS travel. No doubt the next story, The False Guardian will redress the situation.
It’s nice to see both Simon and Paul writing for the Fourth Doctor and I trust there shall be more.