It’s nothing to do with the performances or the direction, the music is always spot on and the adaptations by new writers who have worked on an old script is very impressive. It’s more a case of the difficulty in trying to warm up stories that were either partially formed or merely given a small synopsis and turn them into full blown adventures. Colin Baker’s first series of Lost Stories saw him revert his character of the Sixth Doctor to that of a spiky and crotchety version of the Time Lord for the sake of fitting in with the era, whilst a credit to Baker’s versatility as an actor, it reminded many of why his take on our favourite Gallifreyan was less well received whilst he was the incumbent Doctor, especially when we had all become used to his more mellow take on the role over the last decade or so.
But as the Lost Stories proceeded, so did the direction behind them and with the latest Sixth Doctor offerings, we find that not only has Baker reigned his performance in again to be far more likeable but he’s also been given some much stronger stories and concepts to tackle.
The first release, The Guardians of Prophecy, is a story that involves the return of the Melkur from The Keeper of Traken. Arriving on the last world of the Traken Union the Doctor and Peri become involved in not only political intrigue but also a whole host of Melkurs, controlled by the vicious Malador (played brilliantly well and dripping with evil by the great Stephen Thorne). This story is has the same values in comparison of Alien to Aliens, the mass Melkurs group together to create a particularly remorseless army which no one can hope to stop.
Adapted from an original idea by Johnny Byrne and converted for audio by Jonathan Morris, The Guardians or Prophecy is a hidden gem, what looks to be a rather run of the mill political thriller gradually and explosively turns into an action adventure romp that keeps you engaged right up until the end. This is a prime example of why the Lost Stories came about in the first place, a tale that would have been wonderful to see on the television, with the stakes raised efficiently enough to warrant it as a strong sequel to The Keeper of Traken.
This is the kind of story you wish John Nathan-Tuner had pushed onto the screen during the Sixth Doctor’s era, it contains a retuning monster but rather than feeling shoe horned in for the sake of nostalgia, the Melkur are not only given a small origin story nut are also shown to work to their full potential.
Following on, we have Power Play, in which then Sixth Doctor is reunited with his former travelling companion Victoria Waterfield.
Rather than going straight for the usual reunion, the Doctor has a bit of proof to lay down for his old friend as she fails to recognise him and knows next to nothing about his alien ways or his ability to regenerate. Victoria finds herself well over one hundred year old (due to the fact that she left England in the late 1800’s and settled down on 20th Century Earth) but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming an activist against nuclear waste, something that leads her into a whole heap of trouble. Whilst Power Play’s story is hardly a revelation in terms of Doctor Who, it is a wholesome slice of fun, with sincere messages regarding how we treat the planet Earth.
The scenes between Victoria and Peri play out very nicely, the two characters from very different eras of the show highlight the differences that they encounter whilst aboard the TARDIS, and it’s a different angle to School Reunion and Sarah Jane Smith arguing with Rose.
The final release for the Sixth Doctor and Peri brings us to the excitingly titled adventure The First Sontarans. To say that this is a fun and engaging story would be an understatement. It’s not only one of the finest releases from Big Finish this year but possibly in their whole catalogue.
As the title suggests, this is a bit of an origin story for Sontar’s mightiest race but it’s not relayed in the usual format of the Doctor turning up at a crucial stage of the race’s development as we’ve seen in Genesis of the Daleks or heard in Spare Parts.
The First Sontarans starts of wonderfully with the Doctor and Peri actually getting along very nicely, something which the initial Sixth Doctor Lost Stories didn’t utilise fully, when they stumble across a mystery on the Moon, a mystery that leads them to Earth where they encounter all sorts of bounders and cads until eventually the Doctor comes face to face with a Sontaran in very close quarters indeed. The more we learn about Sontar’s past, the more interesting the tale becomes, this is no ordinary origin story but a well layered and fascinating idea that has been put together in an innovative way. What may seem like simple plot devices are used to their full potential to keep the listener fully entertained throughout, something that some of the other Lost Stories didn’t quite manage.
Which of these stories should you spend your hard earned cash on? Well, that’s a question only you can answer for yourself. If you want full blown action adventure then your best bet is The Guardians of Prophecy, if you fancy a story with more of a political statement and a touch of nostalgia to the past then you should go for Power Play and if you want to listen to how Colin Baker’s Doctor should have come up against the Sontarans then The First Sontarans is well worth your time.
Any three of these stories are recommended for your audio pleasure, this is the strongest line up of tales that Big Finish have ever released in the Lost Stories range and an interesting side step into the past to find out the direction that the Sixth Doctor tales could have taken on screen.
The Guardians of Prophecy, Power Play and The First Sontarans are available from www.bigfinish.com now on CD or via download.