March 2019 will see the eagerly anticipated release from Big Finish of The Comic Strip Adaptations, with two classic Fourth Doctor stories from the early days of Doctor Who Weekly being given the full cast audio treatment to mark the company’s 20th anniversary.
The Iron Legion sees the Fourth Doctor confronted with a far from defunct Roman empire where a robot army holds sway:
1979 AD! Led by the terrible General Ironicus, the mighty Iron Legion – robot veterans of the Eternal War – have come, seen and conquered the English village of Stockbridge!
Caught up in the mayhem, the Doctor pursues the Legion back through the great Dimension Duct to their place of origin – an alternative Earth where Rome never fell…
But can he survive the horrors of the gladiatorial Hyp-Arena long enough to uncover the terrifying secret at the heart of the Galactic Roman Empire?
In The Star Beast, the Doctor acquires a new companion on contemporary Earth and is faced with a terrifying war criminal:
1980 AD! In Yorkshire, the authorities have dismissed reports that an Unidentified Flying Object was seen plummeting towards the ground… moments before the explosion that destroyed the Blackcastle Steel Mills. After all, Blackcastle is the last place on Earth aliens would ever want to visit…
Local teenagers Sharon and Fudge know better. ’Cos they’ve found an actual space alien hiding in the allotments. He’s their alien. Their secret. And his name is… The Meep.
He’s not the only alien in Blackcastle, though. His pursuers, the terrible Wrarth Warriors, are on his trail, along with their unwitting accomplice: The Doctor!
The comic strip was always a big highlight in Doctor Who Weekly, and these stories saw the talents of writers Pat Mills and John Wagner working with artist Dave Gibbons to deliver memorable stories which gripped readers from week to week.
The Iron Legion was originally pitched to the BBC as a television story, but was perhaps understandably rejected at a time when high inflation was having a marked impact in what could be realised on screen.
The Star Beast is notable for a contemporary everyday setting which the programme tended to shy away from at the time. Sharon would stay with the Doctor for further stories in the comic strip, and has the notable distinction of being the first ethnic minority companion in any form of Doctor Who, predating Mickey Smith and Bill Potts by many years.
The Comic Strip Adaptations have been adapted for audio by Alan Barnes and star Tom Baker as the Doctor and Rhianne Starbuck as Sharon. They can be pre-ordered from Big Finish for £23 for a five disc set, or £20 on download. A trailer which, rather wonderfully, features 1970s/80s newsreader Angela Rippon can be heard above.