Series 7 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures comes to a climax with a traditional four-part story featuring the return of Sutekh! This actually the second time Big Finish has brought the character back, but there is something special about hearing Gabriel Woolf voice the evil Osiran opposite the Fourth Doctor once again. Plus Sutekh-aside, there are some fun new characters as well! So let’s dig in, shall we?
The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the datastream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.
But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.
Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s datastream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The Doctor makes a stop at the futuristic city of Drummond, hoping to find a few odds and ends to get his TARDIS scanner working properly. The Doctor being The Doctor however, he soon finds himself on the run for his life!
Leela (Louise Jameson) – Leela has had enough of cities for one lifetime, especially for someone who grew up in a forest. That being said, no matter where she finds herself, Leela won’t stand for people being mistreated…
Sutekh (Gabriel Woolf) – Sutekh is a once-powerful Osiran who has lost his physical form in prior battles with The Doctor. Sutekh is on the verge of gaining enough of his old mental powers back that he can return to the mortal realm again, so he is rather upset to see The Doctor suddenly appearing in the city…
Rania (Sophia Myles) – Rania, ever since she was a child, had a voice in her head. It gave her great pain whenever she denied it, so she went along with it, all the way up to the top a powerful tech company…
Kendra (Eleanor Crooks) – Kendra is currently homeless, a victim of a modern society that has too much emphasis on the top end of the financial scale. If only someone could help her…
Charlton Joyce (John Dorney) – A policeman who, thanks to a condition known by the slang name “corpse hands”, can’t operate this great new gadget that everyone is using. Still, he pushes on, maybe one day it might give him an advantage…
A fun cover, top marks for spending the time to build an image of the Fourth Doctor on a speederbike-thing!
The Doctor and Leela are on fine form here, mostly thanks to a great script and some well realised new characters. Leela finds a group of homeless people and assumes The Doctor will free them and overthrow the government, but The Doctor tells her that he can’t do that in every city with a homeless problem, so she leaves and leads them like a tribe, trying to hunt for food and such and striking up a friendship with one of them named Kendra. It’s a great idea, that Leela just doesn’t know how, sadly, the modern world works. The Doctor ends up paired with sarcastic cop Charlton Joyce, who is brought to life by John Dorney, proving he’s not just a great writer! The two play off each other really well, and it was a refreshing change to hear this Doctor paired off with a would-be male companion.
Sutekh is of course still a treat to listen to. I’ve said on this blog before, but I love a villain with a booming voice delivering cheesy lines, and Sutekh is near the top of the list. It was interesting that when he finally gains a new physical body he ends up fighting with Leela instead of the Doctor, though the scenes work well, and he is eventually stopped by a scheme cooked up by The Doctor, so they both get a crack at him in some sense. I would have liked a few more scenes between Sutekh and The Doctor is all, but they did get a fun exchange at the end of part 2.
The first half, or just “Kill The Doctor!” if you want, is really fun. It sets up the more Sutekh-heavy second half, but it also has a different feel as it’s a (rather in your face) look at modern society and people’s obsessions with mobile devices. The hypnotised population coming after The Doctor lead to some funny scenes, especially when The Doctor was just buying some things innocently in a shop, only to get confronted by a group of armed guards. His confused reaction was great, even better later as he keeps encountering more and more mobs angry at him for reasons he doesn’t understand. Cries of “Oh this is just getting ridiculous!” was genuinely funny, you began to feel the laughing it off becoming more about frustration.
The scene setting is good too, with a more blade runner-esque near-future society that eventually gets turned into a copy of the Osiran homeworld “Phaester Osiris”, with lots of Egyptian-like scenery being descried instead, and the old mummy-like guard robots walking around!
I found Rania to be… dull, I guess. She was there to be Sutekh’s way back in, but for whatever reason I never connected with the character. I guess beyond making headache noises she didn’t really get much development, while the other new guest cast were more fleshed out.
I complained about two London-set stories in a row, so I’ll mention that the other two-story, four-part adventure in this series was set in an equally blade runner-like neon dystopian city with flying cars. Series 7 has been one of the better Fourth Doctor Adventures series, but it certainly lacked in original locales!
Sutekh, The Doctor, Leela, Mummy robots and the two main guest cast, yet it’s well designed enough that it doesn’t look too busy. Nice work!
Sutekh debuted in the Fourth Doctor TV classic “Pyramids of Mars”. He mentions in this story that The Doctor had defeated him twice, with the time corridor (Pyramids) and the ouroboros loop, which is a reference to the New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 2, specifically the final part “The Tears of Isis”, which featured the Seventh Doctor trapping him, which is why The Doctor acts confused about the second line, saying “That must be my future! Ouroboros loop? I must write that down…”.
This series finale four-parter is a great mix of modern themes, great new characters playing off The Doctor and Leela, and Sutekh still being his overly-evil self. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn fun two hours-ish, and I’d gladly listen to it again… so I guess score-wise it should be obvious then!