AUDIO REVIEW: PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE PRESENTS (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE, MARC PLATT / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LOUISE JAMESON, CAROLYN SEYMOUR, GETHIN ANTHONY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Philip Hinchcliffe Presents is a five-disc release of two stories written by Hinchcliffe and adapted by Marc Platt. A sixth disc of behind the scenes interviews accompanies the set. The stories bring together one of the strongest eras in the show’s history – the Fourth Doctor and Leela with the producer (Hinchcliffe) who together gave us such titles as Ark In Space then (along with script editor Robert Holmes) such classics as Planet of Evil, Pyramids of Mars, Brain of Morbius and Talons of Weng-Chiang.
The first three-disc story, Ghosts of Gralstead, is a fascinating blend of early Victorian London, body snatchers, Irish rogues, and alien threat. Into this mix, add the Scrivener family who have more secrets than most. There are many strengths to this complex tale including the performances of Carolyn Seymour as the alien Mordrega and every one of the Scrivener family (Anthony, Martin Hutson, Emerald O’Hanrahan). Baker is in wonderful form channelling his '70s persona and Jameson gets to extend the range of Leela’s character in a complex relationship with the Scrivener families' African houseguest, Abasi.
Completing the collection is the two-disc story The Devil’s Armada, set in a bleak time in British history when persecution of women, accusations of witchcraft and gross mistreatment of Catholics were rife. The tale focuses on not only these factors and the war with Spain, but also the threat from the impish, rarely glimpsed, Vituperons. The grim tale has moments of light relief and a love story but the strength of this story is its dour portrayal of much that is bad with humanity, along with a tremendous performance by Jamie Newall as the Queen’s persecutor William Redcliffe.
These stories mark something of a departure for Big Finish with a rare three-disc (six part) story, larger cast and consequent complexities for production and direction. Ken Bentley does a magnificent job as does the whole cast and the post-production sound crew. This set is also Baker’s best outing for Big Finish by far and some of The Devil’s Armada is arguably his best ever work in the part.
This is an excellent release and shows Tom and Louise at their very best. If you’ve already tried the BBC’s own Hornet’s Nest series or the Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures, rest assured – this is better. We can only look forward to news of the next such box set.