‘Doctor Who: Shadow of the Sun’ reviewed

❉ Tom Baker and Louise Jameson star as Big Finish faces its greatest challenge yet!

“If you’re only familiar with Tom Baker’s Doctor from 1975-81, this is the perfect jumping-on point… one of the most pleasingly authentic recreations of ‘old Doctor Who’ so far.'”

They’ve been in this business for over 20 years now and the Big Finish team has overcome so many obstacles, including difficult rights holders, demanding actors and even death itself. So the small matter of a global pandemic has proven to be just another day at the microphone for Doctor Who’s audio maestros.

Shadow of the Sun was entering production earlier this year as part of a series not due out until 2024, but when lockdown was announced, Big Finish managed to set up home recording kits with the cast and production crew and just… keep calm and carry on. Now it’s been brought forward as a special lockdown release and it’s a real testament to the tenacity of producer David Richardson and his team. Not only did they manage to piece the entire story together seamlessly, it resulted in one of the most pleasingly authentic recreations of ‘old Doctor Who’ so far.

“This is just the kind of story we might have seen in Season 15, with Tom Baker’s Doctor discussing huge, philosophical ideas in grandiose fashion, only to dismiss them as ‘Flip-flam, hogwash and baloney”

Here, we’re introduced to a society of hedonist cult members aboard a luxury space liner. Their rapture is galvanised thanks to the flawed predictions of a discredited scientist, but it’s the ship’s single-minded yet ever-so-charming auto-pilot who’s really in control. As the Doctor and Leela try to persuade the passengers of their folly, there’s a dawning realisation that these victims really don’t want to be saved…

This is a champion script from Robert Valentine, whose story challenges that popular internet-fuelled idea that opinions and facts are equal. There’s a beautiful moment where the Doctor tells a character that ‘your belief is the death of intelligence’ and urges him to see that blind faith will kill them all. In a time where experts are being usurped by any conspiracy theorist with a YouTube channel, it’s edifying to see contemporary issues being tackled so robustly without it feeling anachronistic or crowbarred in. This subtlety extends to Valentine’s supporting characters, where the heroes and villains aren’t immediately apparent and where there’s room for a few credible revelations right up to the very satisfying conclusion.

On the production side, while it might be unfair to single out one individual when it’s such a successful team effort, Jamie Robertson’s music really helps place the story firmly in its era, with dramatic clangs and brassy flourishes that could have come from a Dudley Simpson sextet. It’s a much welcome detail.

If you’re only familiar with Tom Baker’s Doctor from 1975-81, this is the perfect jumping-on point. Big Finish has now produced more than twice as many audio adventures for Tom as he had on TV, and joined here by Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K-9, they all sound 40 years younger. It’s just the kind of story we might have seen in Season 15 too, with Tom Baker’s Doctor discussing huge, philosophical ideas in grandiose fashion, only to dismiss them as ‘Flip-flam, hogwash and baloney’; it has all the iconoclastic whimsy and danger of his Doctor, with Tom’s later, more fanciful ideas gently reigned in.


❉ ‘Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures – Shadow of the Sun’ was released in May 2020 available on CD at £10.99 or £8.99 for download. It will be exclusively available to buy from www.bigfinish.com   until June 30th 2020, and on general sale after this date.

❉ Jim Sangster has been a regular contributor to Doctor Who Magazine for over a decade and his face pops up on numerous Doctor Who DVDs and blurays. Jim wrote a guide to watching all of Doctor Who in order for We Are Cult, which begins here: http://wearecult.rocks/the-pilgrimage-of-destiny-part-one

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