The Fourth Doctor is back, and this time, it’s ever so slightly different. Instead of having a monthly range that spans eight or nine months, Big Finish have decided to release the Fourth Doctor stories in two batches a year, containing four stories each. With the release of Series 7A, it’s time to review the first story in the set, The Sons of Kaldor by Andrew Smith.
Finding themselves in a seemingly deserted spaceship on an alien world, the Doctor and Leela stumble into some familiar foes – the Voc robots from the planet Kaldor – and… something else. Something outside. Trying to get in.
Reviving the robot’s Kaldoran commander from hibernation, the travellers discover that they’ve found themselves in the middle of a civil war. The ship was hunting the Sons of Kaldor, an armed resistance group working with alien mercenaries to initiate regime change on their homeworld.
But now the Sons of Kaldor may have found them. The Doctor and Leela will have to pick a side. Or die.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? It seems like a logical place to start. Right from the first second, (I really meant it when I said we’ll start at the beginning) the music has me hooked. The synths provided by Jamie Robertson are beautifully simplistic, and extremely reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor’s era, whilst still feeling fresh and new.
It’s undoubtable that Tom Baker and Louise Jameson has an excellent chemistry, and Andrew Smith’s script only elevates that to true audio greatness; the Doctor is portrayed as a silly, sometimes childlike genius, and Leela is still the primitive warrior with a mind as sharp as her blade.
Once the Doctor and Leela discover some of the goings on, with some familiar robots (it won’t surprise you which ones if you look at the cover), they’re quickly split up. Leela gets a great little speech about the goings on in The Robots of Death, which Jameson performs brilliantly.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, alongside his new robot pals, V26 and V12 (played by Toby Hadoke and John Dorney respectively) discover that the robots, who are running the ship that the Doctor and Leela find themselves on, have no idea what their mission is. Imagine being tasked with a mission, and not knowing what that mission is; it’d be mildly infuriating, don’t you think?
Around halfway through the first episode, the Doctor and Leela get to meet someone else aboard the ship who isn’t a robot, Commander Lind. Lind is an exceptionally level-headed character; and the dynamic between the Doctor and herself is really engaging to listen to. At times, I will admit, she becomes a bit of an expository character; explaining exactly what had happened before the she was placed in the Medical Tube, but it’s all exposition that’s all needed.
The cliffhanger of the first episode is incredibly interesting; bringing in a lot of moral questions about the robots, and how much they feel and their hierarchy. That alone would have been a really interesting cliffhanger; leaving you wondering about the humanity of a robot, but then, it appears that the titular Sons of Kaldor decide to make an entrance.
The second episode of The Sons of Kaldor starts with some robot prejudice, and a nice little murder; bringing you back to that macabre and somewhat gothic period of the Fourth Doctor’s adventures on TV.
The main storyline of the second episode was that of prejudice from humans against robots, and the robots developing more and more humanity. Leela and V26 have a brilliant conversation; and it’s extremely philosophical, and it reminds me somewhat to David in the recent Alien prequels. Michael Fassbender has nothing on Toby Hadoke.
Personally, I enjoyed the storyline about the robots and Leela far more than I did the one with the Doctor and the Sons of Kaldor; mainly because I love it when Doctor Who challenges grand ideas like it does here. When Doctor Who makes you ask questions, and makes you question your preconceived notions, it’s at it’s most powerful and thought provoking. The idea of evolution of consciousness in a robot, and AI becoming somewhat sentient could be portrayed either in a bleak, dystopian way, a la Black Mirror, or in a deeper, more complex way, like is presented here.
There’s a great twist halfway through the second episode; and it seems as if V26 isn’t the greatest robot in the galaxy after all; there’s been someone waiting in the shadows, quietly helping the robots advance in their capabilities. I’m not going to lie, I love it when stories do the good ol’ bait and switch technique; when you think the outcome is going to be one way, as you’re lead to believe, and then it transpires it’s another. Sometimes it’s good to be misguided and bewildered; it adds to the overall fun.
The conclusion of The Sons of Kaldor is yet another bait and switch; with the Doctor’s help being an extra surprise. I’d honestly say that it feels like the story is somewhat unresolved to a degree; but I’m absolutely fine with that. Mainly because it leaves it open for us to bump into V26, SV9 and Commander Lind again. I do hope so, because I love me some robotic philosophy.
Overall, The Sons of Kaldor is a really interesting story, and a great way to kick off this run of Fourth Doctor Adventures. I felt that the humans in this story are the aspect that let it down, and I would have liked to have spent some more time discussing the more philosophical concepts and the ideology behind robot sentience and AI, but that’s just me. The performances were stellar, and again, I have to praise Jamie Robertson for the music and sound design, which were both exemplary. If you’re looking for a Doctor Who story that will make you think, The Sons of Kaldor may be the one for you.
Should you want to purchase The Sons of Kaldor, it’s currently available from Big Finish as a single download here for £8.99 or here if you wish to purchase all four releases in Series 7A of the Fourth Doctor Adventures for £25 on CD or £20 as a download.