Friday, 9 March 2012

Review: Doctor Who Unbound - Auld Mortality

For the latest forum review I leave you in the very capable hands of @ChrisNewman1972, who on the forum this week has been discussing and reviewing the first in the Doctor Who Unbound series, Auld Mortality. Over to Chris....

One thing I love about our little forum is that we are pretty good for not getting our knickers in a collective twist over things. However if you are ever wondering what it is like to inflict mass chaos on an otherwise strictly ordered and hierarchical society then of the ways that you can amuse yourself is to go on to any other Doctor Who forum and post a statement like...

"X is absolute rubbish because we saw him take an aspirin and we know from Y that a Time Lord is allergic to aspirin."

This is even more fun if Y is something on the margins of Doctor Who like a story from the 1978 annual or a TV Movie.

I think there is a danger (as Star Trek found in the late 90s to its cost) of being too wrapped up in continuity, and the bods at Big Finish agree. They have created a range of stories called "Unbound" and they advertise them as...

"New Doctors. New Dimensions. A series of plays outside of accepted Doctor Who continuity with actors new to the role of the Doctor in situations that might have been, if only..."

If it sounds slightly weird then let me tell you, they have some serious writers and serious actors playing the Doctor. This is a little untapped corner of the Whoniverse but I promise you these stories are little gems! As I haven't done a review for a while, I thought this might be something you may want to take a look at. As weird as it is to listen to different Doctors play the role, these are (in my opinion) some of the finest things that Big Finish have done and all that is asked is that you cast off the chains of canon and embrace the anarchy.

The first in the series is a play called "Auld Mortality" and has Geoffrey Bayldon giving a performance that will tickle your heart as it is so reminiscent of Hartnell's First Doctor. The synopsis is as follows...
"What if... the Doctor and Susan had never left Gallifrey?

In a marble mausoleum, deep in the cisterns beneath the Capitol, Gallifrey's favourite author faces his ultimate destiny.
Who is the woman who claims to be his grandaughter?
Who is the sepulchral figure in robes of night?
Which path should Hannibal's army take to Rome?

And on a snowy mountain high in the Alps, the Doctor remembers the ultimate question: What if he and Susan had ever left Gallifrey?"
You will probably have gathered that I am something of a fan of the Unbound series and a great part of that affection is due to this story. It is written by classic series writer Marc Platt and let us not mess about here, this guy can really put a tale together! It has a slightly ghostly feel to it and the manner in which "The Doctor" is introduced immediately throws us "off centre". Yet whilst so much of the idea and underlying plot is based around "a new doctor" without the constrains of canon, the story very cleverly uses the familiarity of Doctor/Susan relationship to give the listener some frame of reference to warm to the characters and to care about what happens to them.

Geoffrey Bayldon is one of those actors whose voice you will recognise immediately and it is no coincidence that he was one of the actors that JNT looked to replace William Hartnell with in The Five Doctors (he eventually went with the late Richard Hurndall). Bayldon is totally magnificent and I found myself wondering what type of Doctor he would have made on screen. His relationship with Carole Ann Ford is pitch perfect from the start. As with all Big Finish Productions, the SoundScape is wonderful and the production values are high.

But all that apart, what you have here is a brilliant story that operates outside of the normal Doctor Who universe. Bayldon's homage to the First Doctor works so well that half way through you can readily accept him as our Time Lord hero. Platt's storytelling and good supporting actors make this a fabulous little tale and well worth an hour and a half of your time.

I have just been on the Big Finish site and they are selling this story for a ridiculously cheap £5 - for less than the price of a Big Mac Meal and a Latte, you can have this wonderful curiosity. And I guarantee that if you buy this, you will immediately return and buy up the whole series which is available for the ridiculous price of £25.

The concept does require a leap of faith on behalf of the listener, but make that leap and you will be richly rewarded.

For more merchandice news and reviews, check out The Doctor In The TARDIS Forum

1 comment:

  1. OMG this audio is sooo good. I only heard it for the first time about a year ago but I think it is about 10 years old now. I can't believe I didn't get into them sooner.

    Great review!