AUDIO REVIEW: THE FIFTH DOCTOR BOX SET / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MORRIS, JOHN DORNEY / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: PETER DAVISON, MATTHEW WATERHOUSE, SARAH SUTTON, JANET FIELDING, PHIL MULRYNE, CAMILLA POWER, SINEAD KEENAN / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 31ST
In 1982, Doctor Who killed off the long-running companion Adric at the conclusion of the story Earthshock. Presented without end music, this abrupt finale to Adric’s time in the TARDIS still has the power to chill. Matthew Waterhouse had always declined the chance to reprise the role until now, but this Big Finish box set – compromising two full cast stories – finally reunites him with the Fifth Doctor (Davison), Nyssa (Sutton) and Tegan (Fielding).
Jonathan Morris sets the first tale, Psychodrome, at almost the earliest possible moment in the story of this particular TARDIS crew. What is nice is that Adric is the established companion and it is about Tegan being the reluctant new recruit and the whole group reacting to the latest regeneration of the Doctor. The story has minimal complexity and focusses on a fascinating exploration of the various characters as seen from several viewpoints. To a degree this is one for the fans who can spot the many references scattered throughout (such as the first use of “Brave Heart”) but this never spoils the story. The excellent supporting cast includes Camilla Power and Phil Mulryne, who also appeared in the recent Survivors release.
The second story, John Dorney's Iterations of I, has mathematics at its heart and is set on an island off the coast of the Irish Republic. It is well crafted, the dialogue is sharp and the topic gives Adric a chance to shine.
Both pieces benefit from the expert direction of Ken Bentley and the sound work of Fool Circle (the weather on Iterations of I works particularly well). Although this pair of stories marks the return of Adric, the two strongest characters are the Doctor and Tegan (which is not to decry Sarah Sutton's Nyssa, who gets more to do than she sometimes does). Davison seems to really relish revisiting this time in the history of his Doctor, and Janet Fielding has also polished her performance as Tegan over the previous few years.
Big Finish has produced yet another quality release that avoids any temptation to dwell on the significance of Matthew Waterhouse’s return and instead gives fans two great stories to sink their teeth into.