Hunters of Earth took place in a period just before we met the First Doctor. There are suitable reassuring place markings in the piece to ensure that we know we’re listening to Doctor Who but the story itself had far more free range to create its own particular style. Anything could have taken place in the lives of the First Doctor and Susan before the events of An Unearthly Child but by the time we get to Shadow of Death with the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, we already have a strong knowledge of their time that they have spent together, their bond and their reactions in different situations.
One of the goals of Big Finish and AudioGo’s joint enterprise with the Destiny of the Doctor series is to represent the era of each Doctor respectfully and nostalgically, letting the first entry to the series run a little looser was a fine idea in order to let audiences jump on board, so to speak, but now we move on to a stricter style of storytelling.
But the great news is that Shadow of Death is still something of a new angle on the Second Doctor’s era. All the essentials are there, the TARDIS being drawn off course, the Second Doctor full of childish excitement and deadly seriousness, the base under siege story with a group of humans struggling to survive an extra terrestrial menace and some handsome bluffing by the Doctor.
But where author Simon Guerrier could have followed the format to the letter, he has instead decided to fuse the classic series with the new. A cut down cast and an abandoned, mysterious world orbiting a pulsar all add a new series-style atmosphere and menace. The shadows play their part to not only unsettle the listener but literally kill some of the cast and there are some moments that, if you listen to this story late at night in the cold and the dark when the shadows are at their worst, will have you looking over your shoulder more than once. So fun is this story that when it comes to the linking material for the overall story arc and a familiar face makes a brief appearance, it’s all the more enjoyable. Whilst it all makes sense, the plot is explained in rather a brief amount of exposition right at the end of the story and you do have to pin your ears back somewhat to make sure that you’ve understood what’s going on. However, seeing as how the last fifty years of Doctor Who has enjoyed doing that in numerous episodes, we’ll chalk it up to an homage rather than anything else.
Of course, Fraser Hines is on top from as Jamie and the rest of the TARDIS crew once again and will hopefully entice some reluctant listeners of this series to come over to Big Finish and enjoy his other works.
Shadow of Death offers a chilling, yet slightly hurried adventure for the Second Doctor and works well to mould the two styles of Doctor Who that we’ve been used to over the last fifty years, namely the classic series and the new.
Destiny of the Doctor: Shadow of Death is available now; you can get a huge 53% saving on the RRP if you buy from Amazon for £4.79!