Series 5 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures and the Conglomerate arc come to a satisfying and suitably epic conclusion in part 2 of the adventure begun in last month’s The Pursuit of History…
Casualties of Time, like the preceding instalment, is a far-reaching adventure with a broad range of settings and manages to keep up the pace. We are finally treated to the mystery behind the Conglomerate’s inception and exactly who – or what – David Warner’s villainous Cuthbert is. Writer, Nicholas Briggs knows the era well and uses themes and continuity such that it remains evocative of the era but still does something new.
In particular, a further mystery set up long before this series involving a certain parrot residing deep within the TARDIS is resolved. This is somewhat ridiculous but again manages to be ridiculous in much the same way Doctor Who was in the late ’70s with wit, warmth, and a little sparkle. With phrases like “the time is approaching” being bandied about, I did for a moment think that Big Finish were going to tackle the elephant in the room right at the end of Tom Baker’s original television run where a mysterious figure mysteriously appears and acts mysteriously until doing something crucial at the end… but no. Big Finish are quite happy creating their own mysteries and it’s all tied up rather neatly.
If anything the politics are a little tired – as you might expect they’re broadly UK liberal and chime with my own but it does feel a little over-stated at times. Similarly, Romana II seems to spend far too much of the adventure being about as outraged as she could be – reaching peak-indignation quite early on doesn’t allow poor Lalla Ward anywhere else to go in terms of her performance.
But these are minor quibbles and I can heartily recommend this as another lovely and engaging slice of Fourth Doctor escapades. The cast are enjoying themselves and the usual slick production work shines on. It’s been a real pleasure hearing the TARDIS team of the Doctor, Romana II, and John Leeson’s K9 return with aplomb and half way into this series it felt very much as though they’d never left (though I did first encounter them on VHS – I’m old but not that old!).
This is satisfying and ties up a lot of loose ends in the Conglomerate arc while maintaining the pace set in the first part. It’s true to the era, even putting me in mind of The Leisure Hive with regular cast being forced into experimental chambers with sound effects and ominous worry. It’s warm, playful, and manages to turn a few corners you may not have been expecting. This is monster-light and plot-heavy but worth it if you’re a fan of this era and have dipped into the Conglomerate arc before. Listening to the story immediately before this – The Pursuit of Time – is more or less essential, though.
Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor Adventures: Casualties of Time is available to buy now on CD or Download from Big Finish for £10.99 and £8.99 respectively.