The previous release in Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures range, The Skin of the Sleek, was a very well put together piece of Doctor Who. It ended on a cliffhanger that packed a punch and left the listener with a great taste in their mouths so that they would gobble up the second half of the story when it came. Well, it felt like a long wait, but that second half did eventually come – so did The Thief Who Stole Time live up to expectations?
Let’s start with the plot. The story is a direct continuation of The Skin of the Sleek and, sadly, one can’t help but feel disappointed with the results. The biggest problem with these two episodes happens to be how it’s paced. There’s a lot of pointless running around in Part One that does absolutely nothing for the plot and some of it carries over into Part Two. A lot of this release just feels like it’s filler as writer, Marc Platt (Ghost Light) is desperately trying to spread a one-episode conclusion across two episodes.
That being said, the conclusion that lies underneath all the filler is a strong, satisfying one.
I wasn’t too impressed with all of the acting in The Skin of the Sleek, but The Thief Who Stole Time actually sees a slight improvement. And it’s all due to Tom Baker’s attitude, which seems to have improved between recordings of this and the previous audio, and everybody else is portraying their characters just as passionately as they were before. There isn’t really anything to complain or be nit-picky about here.
As for the characters themselves – including Joannah Tincey as Sartia, Alan Cox as Eamonn Orensky, and Kieran Hodgson as Klick Chervain – something seems to have been lost between this installment and its predecessor. This, again, is likely because of how the plot has been stretched and as it is a very character-driven narrative, that’s affected the individuals. It does leave the listener a little saddened because potentially memorable characters become forgettable. A damn shame.
In conclusion, The Skin of the Sleek/ The Thief Who Stole Time falls victim to a common Doctor Who story structure – a very strong start with an ending that leaves a somewhat bitter taste in your mouth. However, I’d still recommend these releases. Though the second half is weak, the ideas it presents are compelling and do lead to some interesting twists and turns. You just have to wade through a bit of filler to get to them.
The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Thief Who Stole Time, directed by Ken Bentley, is out now from Big Finish, priced £10.99 on CD and £8.99 as a download.