This is the first of the ‘Unbound series of audio adventures from Big Finish. Released between 2003 and 2004, this was a series that asked a lot of ‘what if’ questions about the show and produced a range of fascinating stories. It ran for 8 releases, and is some of the best work to have come out of Big Finish productions.
This opening release asks ‘What if the first Doctor had never left Gallifrey with a teenage Susan?’ It is set some years past the time which the Doctor would have left Gallifrey, and focuses on this alternative First Doctor (played beautifully by Geoffrey Bayldon, who evokes William Hartnell while making the character his own) as he realises that his life on Gallifrey is really being controlled by a mysterious opponent.
It’s actually a complex and multi-layered tale that makes good use of alternative realities and passes some comment on the show itself. Carole Anne Ford reprises her role as Susan (now no longer a teenager) and her adjustment of the character, retaining the essential ‘Susan-ness’ while showing her as she would have been had she stayed on Gallifrey is excellent. However, the star of the show is Bayldon, once a contender for the role of first and second Doctor. He is mesmerising, I could listen to him all day. Also of note is Derren Nesbitt as Quences, the Doctor’s great uncle.
It’s about an hour and twenty minutes long, on one disc. It’s a superb release and kick started this new series with a bang. It’s a pity that this range did not continue, as it allowed for some really interesting story telling outside of the constrictions of the traditional Dr Who universe. 5 stars.
The Doctor Who Unbound audio range is a series of alternative takes on the shows established continuity, starring new actors as the Doctor. Very much in the style of Marvel Comics old What If? series, Auld Mortality is basically 'What If...the Doctor never left Gallifrey?'
Geoffrey Bayldon gives a magnificent (and appropriately Hartnell-ish) performance as a Doctor who changed his mind on the eve of his escape from Gallifrey, and has instead escaped into the world of historical fiction as an author, until a visit from his granddaughter Susan (again played by Carole Anne Ford) forces him to act.
It's a play rich in symbolism, as the alternate reality theme of the Unbound series is reflected in the Doctor's current historical fiction concerning which route Hannibal took on his trek over the mountains to make war on Rome, and the colliding alternate reality ending is also highly appropriate. Platt draws heavily from his own mythology of the Doctor's origins from his novel Lungbarrow, which may make this a little obscure on first listen, but persevere and the result is an alternate first Doctor Who story every bit as magical as An Unearthly Child.
Oh what can I say? This is a gorgeous little story and well worth a listen. It has a certain fairytale feel to it and has a very lose story which doesn't take itself to seriously. Susan turning up is a nice and very unexpected touch. The Doctor though was very surprising - showing touches of rebeliousness but sadness as he never travelled for real and only in his little device. I think this sadness also affects the listner who is so used to his travelling. Theres not really a lot to say about this story as it seems to be more about giving off an innocent vibe than telling a story, which is told well.
The ending is absolutely fantastic and shows off the uniqueness of the actual TV show and gets us ready for the rest of this series. After finishing the story I was delighted to see the Doctor was played by that cheeky con artist/astronamer from The Creature From the Pit. His voice was sooooo annoyingly familiar and if this bit of casting was surprising I can't wait to find out who the rest of the Doctors are. This is most definitely a good start and makes you eager to hear the next story, the only audio story I've heard with a fairytale vibe this strong.