It’s not too often that we touch on the First Doctor’s era in Big Finish, but when we do, it tends to be terrific. With the release of the Companion Chronicles box set, The First Doctor: Volume Two, we’re being treated to four new tales from the First Doctor’s time in the TARDIS. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first story in the set, The Fields of Terror.
The TARDIS has brought the Doctor back to Revolutionary France, a place that’s always fascinated him. But this time he, along with Steven and Vicki, are drawn into a devastated land, caught between the soldiers who are burning all before them and a monstrous shape that follows in their wake.
There’s nothing quite like the First Doctor’s era, is there? It’s so iconic, so important, and often rather overlooked. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the First Doctor, but this was a time when the show was arguably at its most experimental; this is a show that is still finding it’s feet. Should there be an era that should be looked at fondly, it’s this one. I’m glad that Big Finish decide to do these Companion Chronicles box sets, alongside The Early Adventures for the fans of the First and Second Doctor’s, as it gives us a great insight into those adventures that didn’t happen on a Saturday teatime.
I don’t know if you can class this as a spoiler as such; but from what I can gather, this box set seems to be focussing on the Doctor’s fragility and the First Doctor’s mortality. Personally, I think that it’s a great idea, as you can only assume that your first regeneration is the most terrifying,
In Fields of Terror, the Doctor returns to Revolutionary France, after previously visiting in The Reign of Terror, but it seems that both time has passed, and the TARDIS has taken him more western than Paris.
Now, I don’t know about you, but usually within the first ten or fifteen minutes of a story, you can almost tell what kind of atmosphere the tale is going to possess. I think that this is true too of Fields of Terror, and it seems as if this story is going to be one that shows us the mistakes of humanity in the past.
I must admit by the end of the first episode, I was surprised by how much of a psychological thriller this story felt. The cliffhanger was nothing revolutionary, (see what I did there?) but it did feel in keeping with the First Doctor’s era.
The second episode of Fields of Terror keep up with the thriller feel of the the first act; but I must say that the second half seems to journey more into horror, which absolutely feels like a natural progression from what’s preceded.
Personally, I have to admit that Fields of Terror didn’t really resonate with me, especially during the second episode, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. It’s a great character piece, and it uses its atmosphere brilliantly; but it just didn’t resonate with me. In my opinion, it’s not as strong as John Pritchard’s other Companion Chronicle, The Mouthless Dead, but it does share similar themes. Pritchard is obviously a writer who loves the macabre, and I do hope that I hear one of his stories again soon.
I can appreciate the craftsmanship involved in making this story, and it was well paced; but not ever story is going to be for you, y’know? Sadly, Fields of Terror wasn’t for me.
Should you want to purchase Companion Chronicles- The First Doctor: Volume Two, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 on CD or £15 for a digital download for a limited time.