It’s the end, but has the moment been prepared for accordingly? It’s the finale of the fifth series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures; following on from last months release, The Pursuit of History, will Casualties of Time be a casualty or will it be a story of the ages?
The TARDIS crew have unknowingly become embroiled in a web of deceit. A trap has been laid across time and they have no possible means of escape. Destiny has ensnared them.
The Doctor is finally getting the chance to see the Conglomerate’s work at first hand. Romana is working to save the alien Laan once and for all. K9 is returning to Ancient Britain in search of an unusual power source.
The Doctor, Romana and K9.
Today one of them will die.
I said in my review of The Pursuit of History that, if you jumped aboard the TARDIS with the Fourth Doctor through Big Finish this series, then some of the characters, storylines and motives would be somewhat confusing; which, for me made me feel alienated from the story (which, if you think about it, is somewhat ironic). Hopefully, Casualties of Time won’t be as confusing to a relative newbie.
The Doctor and K9 are on the heels of Cuthbert, in the the 2070’s in a warehouse of some kind, filled with water and food. My kind of place, as long as there’s wifi. Meanwhile, Romana is being subjugated (good word) to the time vortex so that she can help the Laan to prevent the whole of history from unravelling. It’s a worthy cause, I must admit; keeping everything together. It must be knackering.
One thing that I really enjoyed about the last episode, The Pursuit of History, was Oortag, a member of an alien race called the Oortag, as he sounded a bit like Noel Fielding’s character in The IT Crowd, and I’m glad to say that he’s in Casualties of Time too. One thing I didn’t realise until I looked at the cast list on the Big Finish website though, was that the Oortag is also played by John Leeson, voice of K9.
Something that really interested me as a regular Big Finish listen is how the Conglomerate from the Fourth Doctor Adventures and the Committee from Torchwood are somewhat similar. They’re both sinister sounding organisations whose work is rather undefined and secret. I’d love it if it transpired that the Conglomerate and the Committee are one organisation which would lead to a Fourth Doctor and Torchwood crossover. Captain Jack and the Fourth Doctor; it’d be amazing.
There’s a lot of references to previous adventures from Big Finish involving the Fourth Doctor, which both infuriates me that I’ve not listened to them, thus means I’m missing out on some key elements behind characters relationships and motivations, and also makes me want to go back and listen to the Fourth Doctors Adventures from the beginning. If your intention was to make people want to buy your entire back catalogue Mr. Briggs, you’re doing a good job at it!
Cuthbert is one of the most interesting characters from the Fourth Doctor Adventures, even if he has a somewhat ridiculous name. (No offence if you’re called Cuthbert!) He’s one of those villains who’s not your traditional baddie, he’s got no moustache to twirl, he has no particularly sinister laugh and he’s good at putting on the facade of someone who’s desperately trying to help. If you imagine the Ironside from Victory of The Daleks, you’ll get the basic idea. A person or thing of pure evil, that we, the viewer/listener know about but a lot of people are totally oblivious to. It’s a really interesting way to portray the character.
Nicholas Briggs is exemplary at writing really hardcore science fiction, which I must say is something that can often be forgotten about during the Fourth Doctors era, both in Big Finish and in his televised adventures, as people tend to favour the silliness and absurdity of Tom Baker. In this story however, Nicholas Briggs manages to create some really detailed and complex lore, which I think makes the story seem somewhat more believable.
I must say that part of the Doctor’s story in Casualties of Time reminded me of the Comic Relief sketch The Curse of Fatal Death in the fact that he’s using his TARDIS to go back in time before an event that he’s already witnessed so that he can have the upper hand. (On a totally unrelated note, I must get round to reviewing The Curse of Fatal Death at some point… watch this space.)
The cliffhanger to the first episode is a classic Doctor Who cliffhanger, very reminiscent to me of the cliffhanger at the end of Human Nature, which I must admit, is one of my personal favourites. The only problem with writing these reviews is that I can’t go away for a week, wondering what’s going to happen in the following episode; instead I get to listen to it straight away. The problems with reviewing things for my adoring public, eh?
The second episode starts with a great moral dilemma involving a whole plethora of characters (why would I tell you who? Finding out is half of the fun) which is a real change of pace from the first episode. There’s a lot of treachery, double-crossing, triple-crossing and conundrums. I personally love it when the listener also has to question their own morals, as it really makes you feel as if you’re involved in the story too.
There’s a huge twist in the second act of the second episode; one that you wouldn’t want to spoil for yourself, trust me. So I’m telling you now,
DO NOT READ FURTHER UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO BE SPOILED OR YOU HAVE LISTENED TO CASUALTIES OF TIME. YOU CAN SKIP AHEAD TO THE RATING BUT DON’T BLAME ME.
Okay, back to normal then. Who would have thought that the Black Guardian would pop up? We learn about Cuthbert’s origins, and it’s extremely similar to Bracewell in Victory of The Daleks. Unlike Victory of The Daleks though, I really enjoyed the way that this was done, as it made Cuthbert, someone who we’ve been told is a villain and made you as a listen somewhat empathise with him.
The final few scenes between Cuthbert and the Fourth Doctor are rather tender, and I can’t remember a time in this series of audios where the Fourth Doctor was this emotionally open and tender. It’s not often that Tom Baker gets to downplay moments; but when he does, they’re absolutely beautiful.
Of course with this being the series finale, there has to be a twist, and we’ve already had the Black Guardian appearing so you might be thinking that that was it. I can confirm that, like a lot of Nick Briggs’ scripts, after you’ve been punched in the gut you often get a secondary blow as well. We even get a call forward to an event in Logopolis and it sends chills down the spine.
We also get a strange end and a question that could well be the basis of the sixth series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, I trust that you’ve listened to the story if you’re reading this part of the review, but who knows what the future holds for the TARDIS bird?
Overall, Casualties of Time is a fun enough story with some great revelations about Cuthbert, the Black Guardian and the Fourth Doctor’s future. It’s not a perfect story, especially if you’ve not listened to previous Fourth Doctor Adventures, but I must say that I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of this range.
Should you want to purchase Casualties of Time, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or a £8.99 download which you can purchase here.