It might have been a good idea for Big Finish to reserve this tale until later in its season of Fourth Doctor / Leela releases, for a number of reasons. Firstly, four out of the six stories in this arc feature familiar foes or locations, and this adventure could have broken up a run of three old enemies in a row later on in the season.
Secondly, in terms of tone Justin Richards's script takes a witty, intellectual approach that has more in common with the undergraduate humour of Tom Baker's fourth, fifth and sixth seasons produced by Graham Williams than the more overtly serious and physically horrific approach taken by Philip Hinchcliffe during Baker's first three years in the role. As these audio productions take place between the two eras, it would have made sense therefore to place this story towards the end of the run. The reality-bending, knowledge-thieving antics the Doctor encounters here remind me of Douglas Adams's Doctor Who - City of Death  [DVD] [2005
] and Dr Who-Shada [VHS
]. A scene towards the end of the play is markedly similar to a certain artistic discussion in "City of Death".
The bizarre scenario of "The Renaissance Man" also has much in common with the eccentric approach taken by Paul Magrs for the Fourth Doctor adventures he wrote for AudioGO. Accordingly, Baker's performance veers back towards his lighter AudioGO style. No disrespect to Magrs and AudioGO, whose efforts, I am sure, were instrumental in luring Baker back into the world of full-cast "Doctor Who", but you'd have thought Big Finish would wish to distance itself from that range for now.
Perhaps I am being unfair to criticise this story as being "out of season". The Doctor entered a similarly surreal landscape in the Hinchcliffe-produced Doctor Who - The Deadly Assassin [DVD] [1976
]. Richards's idea also bears comparison to Doctor Who: the Celestial Toymaker
and Doctor Who - The Mind Robber  [DVD
], so it's not just a later Baker type of tale.
The writer also has fun with the character of Leela (Louise Jameson), who keeps mispronouncing "renaissance" as "runny science" and is at one point delighted when she thinks that the Doctor has given her permission to use her knife on someone.
Continuing a trend for hiring guest actors from recent television stories (following Raquel Cassidy as Dr Alison Foster in Destination: Nerva (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
), this two-part tale features Ian McNeice, who played Winston Churchill in four Matt Smith episodes. He is less friendly here as the mysterious collector Harcourt, who proves to be a match for the Doctor in terms of verbal sparring.
Unlike many reviewers, I actually prefer "Destination: Nerva". Nevertheless, this adventure continues to prove that Tom Baker is the real renaissance man.