Time to kick off my look at the whole of Big Finish’s Lost Stories range. Although after the First Doctor I’ll be looking at them in the order they were released (per Doctor) I wanted to start off with Luxor, even though this story contains references to two other Lost Stories, because it was originally going to be the 2nd ever story before it was replaced with a little known story called “The Daleks”! That makes it extremely interesting and technically the earliest Lost Story to be recreated … It’s a shame it’s a bit crap, really…
The TARDIS is drawn to a mysterious signal emanating from a seemingly dead world. Trapped within a crystalline structure, the Doctor and his friends inadvertently wake a vast army of robots that have lain dormant for many, many years. Waiting… for the Masters of Luxor.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
There are some good moments with “The Masters of Luxor”, the main one being the central antagonist known only as “The Perfect One” (Joe Kloska) He was created by the generic Mark 1 robots left behind by the titular Masters to be in their image, and he in turn created the “Derivatrons”, but more than that he wanted to be truly like the Masters: Human. It’s a cliché now, but the robot wanting to be human and exploring what it means to be human are interesting ideas that were quite fresh at the time, Isaac Asimov and Metropolis not withstanding (two clear influences for this script). His fascination with Barbara and Susan and their ability to have children was creepy, even though you knew it wasn’t done with malice. Nothing was, it was the way “The Perfect One” was created, it’s like a weird game of Chinese whispers, he’s the Masters of Luxor’s creation’s creation, the Mark 1’s idea of what their old human masters were like, and it seems they may have gotten it too right.
The final two parts are where The Perfect One and his fellow robots become more active in trying to kill The Doctor and co, and eventually get outsmarted using logic loopholes in the old trope (that wasn’t so old at the time!). It’s fine and has some good cliffhangers, and certainly a breath of fresh air after the first two-thirds of the story…
I think the most interesting thing about Luxor is thinking of a world where it was the second ever story and The Daleks never aired. “Dalekmania” was one of the reasons for the show’s big success early on, and I doubt The Perfect One and his generic robots would’ve had the same impact. Hell, nothing really happens for the first four episodes, so coming straight after the rather dull caveman parts of Unearthly Child might have dropped a lot a people’s interests. Maybe not, it was 1963 and not a lot of stuff was on the telly, but I still think this would have had a rather negative effect of the show had it gone out.
I love how the whole range has a matching art style… shame it doesn’t blend well with my thumbnail templates!
My God is this ever slowly paced. So little happens in the first episode that the cliffhanger is literally Susan about to eat something and the pick up from the start of Episode 2 is Susan then eating it. The scenes of pondering what it means to be human are great and everything, but they’re surrounded by so little of anything… at all interesting that it really makes the whole audio experience a chore, or at least the first four episodes.
I also have to say that while William Russell does a good job of distinguishing between his role of Ian and the fact that he reads all of The Doctor’s lines (and surrounding narration) but Carole Ann Ford’s Susan is fine, but her Barbara and narration run into each other quite a bit, and sometimes into her Susan as well. The lead cast sometimes act a bit off, or a bit naïve, but that comes from the original script being second in line. I guess to rewrite all dialogue like that would start taking the story away from the original scripts, so I don’t mind too much.
Barbara mentions the planet Fragrance and there are several mentions of having just met Alexander The Great, both of which are references to the previously released (and coming next in this marathon!) First Doctor Lost Stories “The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance” and “Farewell, Great Macedon”.
The Masters of Luxor has some gold tucked away in it, but man it’s not worth the slog of the rest of the story to get to it. As a piece of history it’s interesting to think about, and given the amount of Lost Stories Big Finish ended up doing it would’ve been stupid to leave it out, but I can’t honestly recommend it just for those few thought-provoking moments of reflection…