After some fairly light hearted and fun adventures in time and space for the fourth and sixth Doctors, Big Finish offer up a rather deep and sombre story for the First Doctor, Steven and Sara.
Set during events of The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Anachronauts finds Steven and Sara telling a tale of when the TARDIS crew crash landed on a planet after colliding in the Vortex with group of humans that are pioneering the very first time travel experiments. As the two groups form an uneasy alliance and try to adapt to their jungle surroundings, distrust and paranoia start to sink in which leads to many a problem.
Add the dilemma of both groups being stalked by an ethereal yet very menacing being and situations aplenty are afoot. But things are about to get a lot more complicated and a lot more real for the Doctor, Steven and Sara, as there are some big decisions to be made and some life threatening scenarios to get out of.
As always, things are not necessarily what they seem…
This marks the second release in what is hopefully becoming an annual event in the Big Finish calendar, a double CD Companion Chronicle. But where last year’s release was more of a romp, The Anachronauts is heavy going. Faith, friendship and loyalty are reoccurring themes that are stretched to the very limit within this play. Those hoping for something light had best stop for a second and acclimatise to scenes set within harsh and lonely jungles of an alien planet or Berlin in the 1960’s.
It’s an odd move to place this story within the middle of another, wanting to use Jean Marsh’s talent one can understand why but this adventure has a certain epic feel to it, placing it within another epic is a bold move indeed. Yes, the travellers have no choice but to get involved but there’s always a nagging at the back of the mind that the Daleks seem to have been forgotten all too easily, that the menace that is felt for 12 weeks in The Daleks’ Master Plan is put to one side in a second. It doesn’t detract from the overall story or the performances but a few more mentions of Skaro’s finest would’ve been nice.
However, niggling aside what we’re presented with here is a strong story that certainly doesn’t let up at any point. We find out more about Steven and Sara’s relationship which makes her death in later TV episodes all the more poignant and we’re given a version of the First Doctor that is as inquisitive and brave as you would expect, delivered here in a wonderful recreation from Peter Purves. Jean Marsh’s role as Sara Kingdom is nothing to be scoffed at either, she delivers her lines with strong resolution and enriches and embellishes the bold character she portrayed over forty years ago, adding another dimension to Kingdom’s sad sense of family loss.
With 120 minutes of listening time, The Anachronauts certainly requires complete attention but at the end of the affair you’ll be left satisfied and looking forward to more of these “between The Daleks’ Master Plan” adventures.
Although it might be an idea to include some Daleks next time.
Released in January, you can purchase The Anachronauts now from www.bigfinish.com.