But it’s easy to forget (and maybe not even known by newer fans of Doctor Who) that the Doctor used to be less impressed when he met famous faces. Whilst incarnations nine to eleven seem to bestow a childlike excitement when running into the likes of Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie or Vincent van Gogh, akin to meeting ones heroes, Doctors one to eight (in their various media formats and existences) seem to be far more laid back; younger in body but perhaps older in mind.
In a way, that’s part of the reason that The Doomsday Quatrain is a refreshing tale for the Doctor. Landing in 16th century Florence, Doctor of the Seventh stumbles into the life of Michael de Nostradame AKA Nostradamus, the famous soothsayer. Rather than gush praise and fawn at his every word, this incarnation of the Time Lord seems rather more subdued, however. Clearly respecting the famous prophecy master but never giving too much away, this makes a nice reflection to the “they’re a famous historical figure so therefore they must become my friend” bandwagon that the later Doctors have so readily jumped onto (mind you, after a colossal war where all your people and your planet were wiped out, wouldn’t you want to be friends with just about everybody?).
What follows is not so much a tale about alien conquests or corporate greed (these elements do appear though) but more of a character piece. By the end of part two, we’re given a fairly big reveal-one that causes certain characters to question not only their lives but their motives as well. Again, a refreshing take on the Historical Figure tale in this instance is that it’s not the Doctor pushing Nostradamus directly forward but rather Nostradamus himself that does the forward thinking.
In fact, the Doctor spends a lot of his time saving the day as poor old Nostradamus does an incredible amount of soul-searching whilst trying to come to terms with all the events that are unfolding around him.
As stories go, The Doomsday Quatrain is a fair amount of action with McCoy at his (vocally) physical best. It’s a strange detail to add but Sylvester’s Doctor always managed to get the “action run” down to a tea-other Doctor’s couldn’t make it look quite as convincing but he always managed to make his movements look fluid and strong. This helps in the audio world and especially in this adventure when you’re called upon to imagine the Seventh Doctor running from alien menaces and evil doers. It also helps that McCoy doesn’t really sound a day older on audio and this helps to imagine his Doctor even more.
Overall, this play is a strange mix-a heavy character piece mixed into a typical alien invasion story but there are enough twists and turns to keep the listener engaged and, by the end, wanting to find out what’s going to happen to the Doctor next.
If Nostradamus himself had predicted this story, he would have been pleasantly surprised…
The Doomsday Quatrain is available now from www.bigfinish.com on CD and download.