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Review: The Fifth Doctor Box Set (Spoiler-Free)

Gustaff Behr reviews the Big Finish audio adventures Psychodrome and Iterations of I.

big-finish-5th-doctor-box-set

Amidst the excitement that is Series 8, it’s easy to forget that Big Finish is still releasing Classic Doctor Who audio dramas monthly. Although I will admit that the wait between the previous release and this one feels more than a month. What made 2014 truly unique is the fact that Doctors 4-8 are each getting a box set full of their own classic romps. From Dark Eyes to The Worlds of Doctor Who, but for now, let’s harken back to 1981 and join the original Fifth Doctor TARDIS foursome…

It’s been decades since Adric has been heard. Barring the less than villainous representation of him in The Boy That Time Forgot where he was voiced by Adrian Scarborough, Adric has been one of the riskier companions to bring back. This is partly due to fans having a somewhat marmite feel towards him. You either love or hate him. Rarely is there any sort of middle ground. Reuniting Adric with the rest of the TARDIS team also revives the original dilemma that forced writers to delete him from the show in the first place: An overcrowded TARDIS!

The idea of having four protagonists in a story puts an enormous strain on the author as everyone has to be given something to do. This isn’t so much an issue for the other foursome in Peter Davison’s era (Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough), but for most of Peter Davison’s first season onscreen, one of his team would occasionally be sidelined: Adric in Castrovalva, Nyssa in Kinda, Nyssa again in The Visitation, Adric in Black Orchid and unsurprisingly Nyssa in Earthshock. Going into this box set, one of its defining traits would be the ability to use all four characters expertly without dumping one in either a prison or the TARDIS console room.

The box set features two 4-part stories. The first is penned by veteran Johnathan Morris and is called Psychodrome. Now some of you already know that one of the key factors that decides whether or not I watch/listen to something new (that is most likely outside of my usual comfort zone) is the title. As a title, Psychodrome sounds epic! It is set shortly after the events of Logopolis. Stop! Wait! Let’s start here! This is a fantastic idea people. This gives Peter Davison the chance to really harken back to his roots by giving us a very (let’s say that again for emphasis) VERY (and uppercase it) fresh Doctor. Hearing this portrayal again feels like a post-regeneration story in its own right.

Not only that, but Psychodrome might just be the best Johnny Morris story I’ve listened to and that is saying something. So many foreshadowing, ironic echoes, running gags, callbacks – call forwards! Just talking about the lipservice we get here, this story is like Day of the Doctor, but then we get to the story and you’re like ‘wow’. Best of both worlds! Wish we had something like this following on from Castrovalva as opposed to the abhorrent Four to Doomsday. Even if you like Four to Doomsday, after listening to Psychodrome, 9/10 times you’re going to find yourself agreeing with me. Morris creates a story that is so rich with character development, but manages it in a way that doesn’t change who these characters are by utilizing the fact that at this point, these characters don’t really know one another. Nyssa has nowhere to go but the TARDIS, Tegan never wanted to travel in the TARDIS and Adric doesn’t quite recognize the Doctor as himself, more as a pale imitation who isn’t quite as prepared or planned as his scarf and curls Doctor. Remember this is Five at the very beginning. These concepts are all explored in a very unusual setting populated by very unusual factions that like the Aplants from the Angels two-parter has a way of hiding their true importance.

The second story is written by John Dorney who has written some of my personal favorite stories such as The King of Sontar, The Burning Prince and The Crooked Man, so I was expecting more than just a haunted house The Island-esque story from him. Something on par with The Crooked Man. Iterations of I delivers! Well mostly! It’s quite the clever script, but also combines out-of-the-box ideas and mixes them with the haunted house genre of storytelling. The fright factor is present and very infectious. The sound design team really did their homework on this piece. It can easily give Night Thoughts a run for its money.

Onto the other aspects of this box set, one of the treasures comes in the form of the original 80s radiophonic workshop tracks playing throughout the story. Doesn’t get more 80s than that! You can tell no expense has been spared. Big Finish really wanted to bring back the early 80s vibe and they succeeded amicably. This genuinely feels like a radio drama preformed in 1981, except the quality of the microphone is still that of 2014 thank goodness. Anyone who’s ever listened to Slipback will understand where I’m coming from.

A jarring aspect was the old-ish sounding Adric which is justified as Matthew Waterhouse is 52, but it feels odd when hearing him act alongside the mildly gruff sounding Peter Davison, the virtually unchanged Sarah Sutton and the accent disguised Janet Fielding. Perhaps it’s because I’m already used to them. Whatever the case may be, it takes a little getting used to, but by the second story, you should be completely used to him – no biggie!

Another issue fans might have with the second story is that the ideas used might go over their head. It’s very abstract in a sense and hard to wrap your head around it if you’re not used to it this level of creativity. It’s clever, but also teetering on the verge of being too clever for its own good. This leads to a decline in episode three with the inclusion of a plot twist that is…I’ll be honest: Pathetic! Given how smart and unique this story started out as, pulling a plot twist this mundane and lackluster is a sore topic for discussion, made even worse by the fact it was pulled out of thin air with no setup, some kind of hint or foreshadow. Bonus points for the fact that it’s also obvious that inclusion of this particular subplot was only added to pad the story another twenty minutes when it wasn’t needed at all. This I feel is this story’s biggest flaw. Consistency is equal to/or greater than the sum of the writing. This means that it is okay for a mundane story to get better or stay the same, but it cannot be allowed to get any worse. This I feel is what happened here.

The time placement for these stories: Psychodrome is set shortly after Castrovalva, but before Four to Doomsday, while Iterations of I is set after some time after Black Orchid since Nyssa mentions the Doctor starting to read the book he received in the book’s namesake episode.

Psychodrome: 9.5/10
Iterations of I: 7/10

Step back in time...

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40 comments
Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

Perhaps my favourite TARDIS team: the Fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan.  I might consider purchasing it.

mrpaddy1984
mrpaddy1984

I'm still making up my mind on buying this. I don't tend to go for many Davison stories, he's had some crackers but I've never been a fan of his companions. I am curious about seeing what Big Finish do with Adric, though.

If Gustaff or anyone else who's heard this one could answer the two questions below, without spoilers, it might help me decide.

1 - With the story set after Logopolis - does Davison sound more like his TV portrayal? I've nothing against his more matured take on the character, but have always understood this was intentional on his part and I'm curious as to whether he can really capture the original 5th still.

2 - Has Adric been fleshed out a bit or at least made into a character I don't want to lock in a box until the grown ups have finished saving the universe?

davidbrummy
davidbrummy

I was no big fan of Adric as a companion but one thing I would say is please let him stay dead.  It was a great ending for the character and would be a real shame if any attempt to bring him back to life was made.

Terrysdeadnow
Terrysdeadnow

What's the twist in Iterations 3? It's not the one with DeValley is it? Because that's definitely set up and foreshadowed in his very opening lines.

DonKlees
DonKlees

"Another issue fans might have with the second story is that the ideas used might go over their head. It’s very abstract in a sense and hard to wrap your head around it if you’re not used to it this level of creativity." - I would respectfully suggest to Mr. Behr that impugning the intelligence of the likely listeners might not be the most effective means of criticizing a story.




FreddieC
FreddieC

It's a really good box set and I totally agree that psychodrome is Morris' best work. I can't wait for revenge if the swarm as hector is the most interesting storyline evrr

ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

Thanks for the review! We all know how Big Finish do wonders to unpopular characters, so even despite my strong dislike for Adric I'm quite looking forward to listening to this one, as in some ways I'm actually hoping that it will help me (and I presume lots of other fans out there) to warm to him.

Now, with Adric joining the Big Finish team, I presume the only one left behind is Dodo?

mayotango131
mayotango131

I've waited my whole life to hear a story set in season 19.

I literally cried with happiness at the end to hear wonderful stories both were a success for me. They reminded me of the old days of Erimem / Peri stories, when the Fifth Doctor stories were good and funny without unnecessarily long and tedious story arc that should have ended in "Prisoners of Fate".

I've always seen the original crew as a family. The Fifth Doctor as a young father, Tegan as the nagging wife, Nyssa as the eldest daughter, and Adric as the bratty little brother. So are my favorites, but also remind me of the first team of Sliders. I want more trilogies on them right now, season 19 needs to be repaired and better explored.

Psychodrome was successful where the novel "Divided Loyalties" failure.

Joncon95
Joncon95

I will be getting this soon, I've only recently spent loads of money at Big Finish with all the offers, so i'm having a break from buying while I listen to them all. Glad I read this review, it's made me want it even more. Great review Gustaff! 

Runcible
Runcible

Great review Gustaff!

I've been umming and ahing a little over this one, (mainly because, as you say, there are so many other amazing sounding box sets coming up, and I'm not sure how well my bank account can keep up!) but I'll definitely be getting it now.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I absolutely agree with everything you said, the good and the bad. I've never been a big Adric fan, but it was great hearing him again none the less. Matthew Waterhouse did a surprisingly good job recapturing Adric, even if the voice was a little off. The first story was definetly better, but both were great, and they really felt like they were plucked right out of the 1980s. I loved how they almost bookended the adventures of that team, with the first story being set straight after "Castrovalva" and the second being set shortly before "Earthshock". It was a nice touch and really showed how much the team had grown over that season. All in all another cracker from Big Finish.

Oh, and I have heard "Slipback". Glad to hear I'm not the only person that has.

floppy_who
floppy_who

Great review Gustaff! I haven't heard Matthew Waterhouse recently and was wondering if he still sounded the same or not! Having bumped into Sarah Sutton a few times over the last decade or so, I'm beginning to wonder if she has an oil painting in the attic....

(Having watched the first 5th Doctor season on original transmission in 1982, I'm beginning to feel my age a bit..!)

Gustaff
Gustaff

@mrpaddy1984 

1) No, he sounds a little gruffer like most of his audio performances

2) The first story helps flesh him out a lot. The second he kinda feels like a generic companion.


Hope that helps

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

They did do a story that revealed he'd survived, but it was alternate timeline and was undone at the end.

Terrysdeadnow
Terrysdeadnow

Oh, and several comments on his morality and what he does at weekends from the poachers.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

Having listened to the story, I agree with his comment. It's a very complex story. About halfway through the climax I just gave up on trying to understand the explanations.

Gallade Zero
Gallade Zero

@ilyootha is back in home Universe If I remember correctly, the only connection was that the Doctor came into Adric's room having just finished reading the Black Orchid book the family gave him, saying that Adric should really read it.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@ilyootha is back in home Universe In the story, the Nyssa mentions the Doctor starting to read it, but then the Doctor shows up and tells her that he did start, but that nobody ever said anything about finishing it. Common sense tells me that he took a break and this is where this story takes place in. Afterwards, he will start back up again and that will lead into Earthshock.

Gustaff
Gustaff

I love Slipback, its canon, but you can hear it was recorded in the 80s. So obvious. Glad u enjoyed the box set as well. They should do something like this again soon.

Gustaff
Gustaff

There are a few actors whose voices have virtually ben unchanged:

Paul McGann

Sarah Sutton

Sylvester McCoy (100% the same)

Sophie Aldred

Mark Strickson

Louise jameson

Lalla Ward

Magic voices!!!

mrpaddy1984
mrpaddy1984

An interesting story but I was very glad they undid it at the end.

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

@Gustaff @ilyootha is back in home Universe Well, I suppose as directly as it ever can be when you're travelling around in a somewhat unreliable time machine. Anyway the Doctor is reading it in the beginning of Earthshock (just watched it, so I should know) before his row with Adric. He seems to be somewhere near the beginning of the book, so it would make sense if Iterations was set somewhere between the two.   I think this might be the next DW Audio I'll get (I only have Stone Rose and Castrovalva so far) as I love the Fifth Doctor (almost as much as I do Ten) - but there's too much temptation out there. So much to choose from, so little time (and money).




Temporal Tomato
Temporal Tomato

Paul's gotten a little deeper since 1996, but strangely it must've happened shortly after as it's the same from Storm Warning - Eyes of the Master.


mayotango131
mayotango131

@Gustaff 

 Sorry but I find Sarah's voice very "adult" to imagine her as a pre-teen, and the voice of Mark Strickson is very old in "The Emerald Tiger" and other stories that almost confused him with William Russell.

The voice of Tom Baker and Colin Baker are exactly like their old days.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

Actually, I find Louise Jameson's voice to be noticeably deeper than it was in her leather bikini days, but she still plays a perfect Leela.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@mayotango131 @Gustaff Nyssa isn't a preteen. She is 19 in the story. I'll give you Mark in Tiger, but Tom doesn't sound close to how he did in the 70s and Colin's voice has aged a little. If you need proof, do a voice comparison based on one TV story and one audio. Very clear difference.

mrpaddy1984
mrpaddy1984

"I'm the Nyssa, man! So that's what you call me, OK? That or Nyssarer, Her Nyssness, y'know, El Nyssarino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing..."

Gustaff
Gustaff

@ilyootha is back in home Universe @Gustaff @mayotango131 It's creepy eh? Though, having distinct accents helps disguise the age. Not in Sarah's, but in McCoy's for example. He is the only actor whose voice sounds identical thanks to his unusually Doctorish Scot accent. Love that. 


That's what I;m looking forward to with Chris, David and Matt when they join BF. Chris sounds very north, David speaks with an Estuary accent and Matt's accent is at the RP end of Estuary. Doubt they'll age very much.

floppy_who
floppy_who

RP end of the estuary.... Like it!

I wonder if we'll ever get a Doctor or companion with a Bristol accent? A very Bristol heavy exchange might go something like:

"Ere, ooz at?"

"That's Doc Troo"

"Doc Troo? Wassy Do?"

"Ee fights darrleks in is TARRDESS"

"Darrleks? They'm dussbins, innum?"

"S'right. Gert lush."

I'm happy to provide a translation for those not familiar with my local vernacular....!

Makes me think if there are any famous exchanges from Who that might be amusing if translated into Bristle....

:-)

Gustaff
Gustaff

@floppy_who I have no idea what you just said. Perhaps Bristol is one accent too far. Sorry Bristol accented people.