In this second half of the two-part finale to the current series of Fourth Doctor adventures, the Doctor and Romana find themselves in deep waters – literally. On the oceanic world of Funderell, the pair has discovered an ancient cover-up of the Time Lords’ making. Can they stop a rogue Gallifreyan from gaining mastery over the whole of time and space?
After writer Marc Platt built up such an evocative planet in last month’s The Skin of the Sleek, The Thief Who Stole Time unravels the mysteries of this world and explores the origins of its strange ecological features – seas that you can walk across! – and the local religion which revolves around the gift of prophecy. We get some satisfying, if not entirely unpredictable, answers that ensure things wrap up this run of adventures in suitably apocalyptic fashion.
It’s not just one long info dump, though, as Platt retains the poetic, melancholy edge to the tale from the first part. In particular, the piece is lent some gravitas by its omniscient narrator, the richly voiced Des McAcleer. In fact, the sound design and score from Jamie Robertson thoroughly deserves a mention for how it breathes life into the planet of Funderell, ensuring it is as important a character to the story as the Doctor himself.
Of the cast, as we highlighted Lalla Ward and Tom Baker last month, let’s applaud guest Joannah Tincey this month. Following on from the twist at the end of The Skin of the Sleek, Romana’s old pal Sartia from the Academy has been revealed to be the true villain of the piece. Tincey is perfect for the role and clearly relishes voicing a character that gets such gleefully evil lines as “Goodbye… forever!” Let’s hope Sartia makes a reappearance at some point. Surely it’s an irresistible idea to give Romana her own Master, as it were: a Time Lord foe who pops up and causes trouble from time to time.
Overall, The Thief Who Stole Time (and by extension The Skin of the Sleek) is a wonderfully imaginative tale which sees every aspect of production giving it their all. The strange and unlikely lovechild of Dylan Thomas and Douglas Adams, this is a worthy end of the Fourth Doctor’s latest run of audio dramas. Make sure to dive into this one (though you might bounce off the surface).
DOCTOR WHO: THE THIEF WHO STOLE TIME / WRITER: MARC PLATT / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / TOM BAKER, LALLA WARD, JOANNAH TINCEY, ALAN COX, KIERAN HODGSON, DES MCALEER / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW