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A quality start to another Tom Baker return
on 29 May 2011
In an age where Russell T Davies, David Tennant, Steve Moffat and Matt Smith have radically reinvented Doctor Who and taken the world by storm, it's most pleasing indeed that the BBC hasn't forgotten the show's original roots. To the point where they keep its legacy alive in the form of brand new audiobooks featuring none other than the Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker.
Fresh off the success of the Hornets' Nest audio series, Tom reprises the role (along with his hat and scarf) once again for another five-part audio series called Demon Quest. In tow is Susan Jameson reprising her role as Mrs Wibbsey (the Doctor's Housekeeper!) as the Time Lord's companion from Hornets' Nest, and the whole arc is written by the same man, Paul Magrs.
Set one year after the conclusion of Hornets' Nest, the Doctor returns to Nest Cottage to see how Mrs Wibbsey is adapting to her new life. Unfortunately, whilst the Fourth Doctor is rebuilding the TARDIS, Mrs Wibbsey accidentally sells a key component at the jumble sale! But upon investigation, its revealed that the purchaser traded the TARDIS part for a bag containing four mysterious items, which leads the Doctor and his companion on a travel to Ancient Britain, shortly before Emperor Claudius' invasion, and find themselves caught in-between a war of opposing tribes.
The Relics of Time is an enjoyable audio play. Tom Baker, a natural voiceover, settles in comfortably to the role once again. He narrates the events with great charm and sophistication, bringing life to the character of HIS Doctor, which remains the stuff of legend. You can visualise this chapter of Demon Quest as though you were watching an original episode of the old series. It certainly captures the style and heart of old Who, thanks to Tom, Ron Grainer's vintage theme tune, the great sound-effects and background music, and Paul Magrs' script.
Magrs has been loyal to everything that made the original series so special, writing a tale that faithfully captures the essence of Doctor Who's early days. Story-wise, it has the typical silliness, drama, shocks and intrigue that any fan can expect. The Relics of Time, though, isn't all that special, and the events don't really leave you hungering for more. Rather, merely curious to discover how the loose-ends and unresolved sub-plots will be continued across the whole arc.
But The Relics of Time is certainly worth checking out, down to Tom Baker's terrific narrative, and Mrs Wibbsey, who proves to be an inspiring companion for the Fourth Doctor. Susan Jameson definitely relishes in performing such a strong character, and with Nigel Anthony providing merriment as the mysterious `Wizard' and Richard Franklin making a welcome cameo return as Captain Mike Yates, there's a lot of charm to be found here.
Kudos must also go to the BBC's graphics department for producing a delightful cover for the CD. Aside from having a great mosaic portrait of the Fourth Doctor, the inside sleeve is laid out with `cut-outs' of information, done in the style of the Radio Times from long ago, which is a nice touch, as is the excerpt from the history book that plays relevance in the story.
Doctor Who: Demon Quest looks set to being a worthwhile audio saga. While The Relics of Time is hardly a promising start (and is left far behind by the likes of The Forever Trap and Prisoner of the Daleks), it's nevertheless a fine audio book, and for Tom Baker fans - and fans of the old days of Doctor Who - it's a worthy addition to your collection, and you feel safe with the knowledge that this is early days, and the best is surely yet to follow.