Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Outlaws

❉ Noonan manages not only to capture the voice and intonation, but also the very heart and soul of William Hartnell’s performance, writes Stephen Brennan.

“To call Stephen Noonan’s performance faithful would be doing him a great disservice. Noonan manages not only to capture the voice and intonation, but also the very heart and soul of the ever-elusive Hartnell’s performance…”

Stephen Noonan and Lauren Cornelius © Tony Whitmore.

Potentially The Outlaws has several factors going against it. As the first release in Big Finish’s newly reformatted First Doctor Adventures, it has to serve as an indication of what’s to come for the range, while simultaneously establishing the dynamic of a pair of relatively new regular actors as a character combination that is not especially well loved. It has a cover that, while artistically nice, is far too generic and feels like a placeholder. Add to that the fact the set was released the day before the highly anticipated Doctor of War: Genesis, and it seems like all the odds are against The Outlaws. But in a way all of this is fitting: this underdog spirit was what kept Doctor Who going at its inception, and The Outlaws feels forged within this white heat of the creative firestorm that was 1960s Doctor Who.

Stephen Noonan (The First Doctor)

The titular story of the set, The Outlaws, is a pure four-part slice of the Hartnell era. A light-hearted historical in the style of writers Dennis Spooner or Donald Cotton set in Thirteenth Century Lincoln, Lizabeth Myles manages to nail the style and tone of Season 3 perfectly. While perhaps not the most adventurous of stories, it was quite possibly the best introduction to Stephen Noonan’s Doctor we could have. To call Stephen Noonan’s performance faithful to Hartnell would be doing him a great disservice. Noonan manages not only to capture the voice and intonation, but also the very heart and soul of the ever eluisive  performance. His relationship with Lauren Cornelius as Dodo is absolutely adorable!

Glynis Barber as the Sheriff of Lincoln has a wonderful turn as the “anti-hero” of the story, turning from ally to enemy and back at the drop of a hat (akin to Richard the Lionheart’s role in The Crusade). Alongside Rufus Hound’s deliciously over the top portrayal of the Monk, this is a story that is incredibly joyous to listen to. While it never pushes itself beyond anything fairly traditional, it was an excellent choice in my opinion to keep things familiar so people could get to grips with the new status quo of these adventures.

Rufus Hound (The Monk)
Lauren Cornelius (Dodo Chaplet)

Story two of the set is The Miniaturist, a story set in and around a 2019 North Yorkshire mine leading to a geological “quiet spot”. The Miniaturist embodies the “sideways” approach to telling a 1960’s Dr. Who story, in that it’s a bit weirder and more out-there than a typical science fiction story, and in my opinion despite its shorter two part runtime is definitely the highlight of the set. The atmosphere in Lizzie Hopley’s wonderful script is accentuated beautifully by the sound design by Toby Hrycek-Robinson, The Miniaturist’s music takes heavy inspiration from the work of Tristram Cary, perfectly combining spookiness with that sense of familiarity that The Outlaws set as a whole excels at.

Story two of the set is The Miniaturist, a story set in and around a 2019 North Yorkshire mine leading to a geological “quiet spot”. The Miniaturist embodies the “sideways” approach to telling a 1960’s Dr. Who story, in that it’s a bit weirder and more out-there than a typical science fiction story, and in my opinion despite its shorter two part runtime is definitely the highlight of the set. The atmosphere in Lizzie Hopley’s wonderful script is accentuated beautifully by the sound design by Toby Hrycek-Robinson, The Miniaturist’s music takes heavy inspiration from the work of Tristram Cary, perfectly combining spookiness with that sense of familiarity that The Outlaws set as a whole excels at.

Paul Copley (Mick Huff), Annette Badland (The Miniaturist), Lauren Cornelius (Dodo Chaplet), Stephen Noonan (The Doctor), Yasmin Mwanza (Professor Medra) © Tony Whitmore.

The Outlaws’ producer, Mark Wright, said he wanted to start with a release that was familiar, to ease audiences into Noonan and Cornelius adventures, while also serving as the starting point for them to grow from, and in that way The Outlaws is a perfect release. Some may find it a bit unadventurous, but it’s fun, scary, and at times very emotional, but the Universe isn’t being destroyed. The Outlaws is the ultimate selection of “comfy Who”, and it’s a joy to listen to.

As for the future, the sheer potential contained in this set is unmatched by most other Big Finish Productions. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see where they take the first Doctor and Dodo next!


❉ ‘Doctor Who — The First Doctor Adventures: The Outlaws’ is now available to own as a collector’s edition CD box set (+ download for just £19.99) or digital download only (for just £16.99), exclusively from www.bigfinish.com.

❉ Stephen Brennan has been writing for fanzines and charity anthologies for some time. A writer by day, a game developer by night, they can be a bit of a grump, but with a mischievous twinkle in their eye that lets you know they aren’t all bad.

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