To Whovians raised with tales of River Song and the Weeping Angels, time travel paradoxes may seem like a ubiquitous part of the Doctor Who mythos, yet in the classic series, time travel was rarely more than a way of getting the Doctor and companion into place for the story to begin. The Paradox Planet, the latest in Big Finish’s Fourth Doctor range, turns that on its head, putting Tom Baker’s Doctor, along with Lalla Ward’s Romana and John Leeson’s K9, into a real timey-wimey situation.
Though don’t worry if you can’t stand that term, for Jonathan Morris’ story hits a good balance between Moffat-esque shenanigans and the classic format which Big Finish always imitate well. Travelling in the vortex, the Doctor and Romana encounter a Time Tank and follow it to Aoris – a world where the past is at war with the future. Angered by the greed which led to their planet being polluted, the inhabitants of ‘Era 25’ are sending troops back into ‘Era 14’ to gather resources and steal endangered species. The people of Era 14 are retaliating, leaving bombs set to detonate at the time their enemies are born.
With both time zones ignorant of their own part in the planet’s destruction, the story could easily be read as a commentary on climate change and the effects war has on the environment. It’s not preachy, though; this allegory adds a layer of depth to a thoroughly entertaining story. Morris’ script is well paced and picks just the right times to add further weird and wonderful elements into the mix, such as a cult led by a computer which has prophesised the Doctor’s arrival in the future.
What’s also praiseworthy is that the story is very well suited to the TARDIS team it features, and all three lead actors give convincing performances with the feel of a true 1970s serial. A situation like this calls for two Time Lords, and the parallel stories of Romana and the Doctor, stuck in different time zones, show off their very different approaches to dealing with temporal meddlers – Romana as stern and rule-abiding as ever, and the Doctor cracking one-liners about their very spacious control rooms. Plus, robotic dog fans will be pleased to know, K9 gets to be essential to the plot for once!
With a fun concept that makes original use of time travel and allows Baker, Ward and Leeson to shine, The Paradox Planet is another success for the Fourth Doctor Adventures range. It’s actually the first half of a two-parter, so we’re eagerly anticipating the end of the adventure in next month’s Legacy of Death.
THE FOURTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES 5.3: THE PARADOX PLANET (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MORRIS / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LALLA WARD, JOHN LEESON, SIMON ROUSE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW