on 18 July 2014
Christopher H. Bidmead has written some of the most complex and thought provoking scripts for Doctor Who. While you don't need a degree to understand them, his stories get better on repeated viewing as some of the nuances become clearer. The Hollows of Time is no different. I am coming at this for the first time and its complexities are evident on first listening. I suspect when I come back to this next time, perhaps in a few years the things I missed the first time will help make more sense of it.
Plot: Incredibly convoluted as one would expect from Bidmead, The Doctor and Peri visit Revd 'Foxy' Foxwell, an old friend of the Doctor's who is working with Professor 'Stream' on some time experiments. Needless to say Stream turns out to be the villain, using Tractators to fuel his time experiments and luring the Doctor in to fetch the Gravis from his resting place. In this story we never do find out who 'Stream' is, but it is clear that the great reveal has been prevented by the current BBC who at the time were featuring the return of another villain whose name is an anagram of 'Stream' and didn't want Big Finish to use the same character... which would have been difficult as the original actor has long since died. In the end this doesn't cause any problems with the plotting, except that there feels as though there is a gaping hole where the sudden reveal should be. The Tractators are also present, but unlike the last time their presence is important but does little to progress them and they are not the villains in this story. Over all I lost the purpose of the story part way through and stuggled to pick it up from that point onwards.
Script: Very good. Some wonderful lines, some very well realised characters and some great moments (the Doctor stuck in space in a Citroen for example). Possibly let down by an inability to convey everything to understand what was going on.
Other: This would have made a better television story with the chance to repeat view via video making up for the convoluted storyline. The music here is the best so far of the Lost stories, invoking the era it came from without sounding like it was just added on by the Radiophonics Workshop. Susan Sheridan as Simon was fantastic.
If Mark of the Rani loses out by having the Master in it, I think this probably loses out by not having the Master in it. The worst of the Lost Stories so far.
5/10 (+1 if the Master had been in it and another +1 had it been made and readily available for multiple watches)
on 2 April 2010
The synthesized pan-pipe music, so beloved of 1980s' TV sci-fi, immediately dates this full-cast audio adventure, and informs the listener that this is very much a period piece. Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor - having had a rennaisance on audio since he was ditched by the BBC - has a script that highlights all his incarnation's verbal pomposity and intellectual arrogance, and doesn't really showcase his characters' more appealing side at all. Peri, his 'assistant' (as they called the Time Lord's travelling companions then) has little of interest to do, especially as the story is told in flashback, and she spends most of it quizzing The Doctor about the events in Hollowdean. Most grating though is Susan Sheridan's impersonation of an eleven year old boy, Simon; incredibly the extras at the end of disc 2 feature several actors and crew (including Baker), raving about the actress' uncanny ability to speak like a pre-pubescent boy, but for me, Sheridan's puffed-up squeak is one of the things that is wrong with this story.
The potentially impressive but ultimately disappointing alien presence 'The Tractators' are brought back for their second Doctor Who appearance, but if anything they are even less-impressive this time around. The creatures are only ever referred to by other characters and never encountered alive, and one wonders why writer Chris Bidmead didn't make more of his creations. Overall this is a slow and disappointing installment in what has been on balance a very impressive series, and I just hope that PJ Hammonds' Paradise 5 (Doctor Who: The Lost Stories) provides a tonic to its predecessor's moribund production.
on 17 May 2010
Christopher H Bidmead's time as script editor of Doctor Who saw a welcome darker and down to Earth tone creeping back into the Tom Baker era. They also so saw the show based much more on real scientific contexts, you only have to look at the 4/5th Doctor segue of Logopolis/Castrovalva to see this. Also those scripts really did work, they were the right balance of mood, talk, exposition and visuals, if a little light on action in places. However, this script seems to have suffered a lot in it's transition.
Originally penned for the 'lost' Colin Baker season, it sees the return of the Tractators from Frontios, and what would have been the seasonal return of the Master. Even though he works more in an Enigma role here has Professor Stream he has all the right Master attributes, hypnotism, ability to pilot the TARDIS, casual disregard for human life and an unfailing belief in the eventual success of his own mad scheme. There's a semi religious cult, an eccentric vicar, a creepy henchman and an enthusiastic young helper. All the right ingredients you might think. Sadly something is lost in translation.
For a start I should point out that Colin Baker is superb as ever on audio and his enthusiasm for the part almost keeps the thing ticking along. David Garfield also provides the right level of malevolence as Stream. The opening twenty minutes are very atmospheric and the flashback idea to cover the fact that they couldn't use the Master (Anthony Ainley not being alive, as well as rights issues proving a huge stumbling block) works well, and serves to break up the story efficiently. It can't however, solove a lot of the problems.
Peri goes back to being very underdeveloped as a character, particularly dissappointing coming after Leviathan. Also this was obviously a very visual script, and it just hasn't been translated well; there's a lot of the old pit fall of people going 'oh look this is happening', or 'I can see this and this and this,' rather than hinting and leaving to the mind, which Big Finish do so well. The fact that the second part involves a lot of running down (time) corridors and relies on this exposition doesn't help to make it less confusing. Adding to the confusion was the fact that they had to edit a lot of content out. And yes, I have to agree, Susan Sheridan pretending to be a boy just really doesn't work when exposed for that length of time.
What The Hollows of Time represents is a very good concept and idea, just not being realised as well as it could posibly have been. Christopher H Bidmead can write well, but this does not stand, sadly, as his finest hour.
This is the fourth in the series of productions from Big Finish bringing scripts originally written for Colin Baker's sixth Doctor on TV but never made to life. It's a worthy enterprise, and some interesting nuggets have been brought to the surface. But some scripts were ditched because they just weren't much good, and this, I am sorry to say, is one of them and might have been better left lost.
That isn't to say there is nothing to enjoy here. Most of the actors turn in excellent performances, and Colin Baker in particular is a lot of fun. The feel of the eighties series is also recreated well. However, the plot, involving the tractators last met in `Frontios' and attempts by an evil genius villain to build a quantum gravity thingamajig is messy and confusing. It reminds me of all that was worst about Baker's doctor, and really does not work for me.
One for the fans I think. The casual listener would be better off starting with the excellent `Leviathan' or `Paradise 5' from the same series.
on 11 October 2015
What was Stream trying to achieve, and how do the sequences that show his perspective tie into the pointless and strange framing device? Also, why can't BF get child actors to play children? We cut to the characters at times and even they are confused. What absolute bollocks!
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.
Where to start?
I hate to do this, I hate to give a review like this but here is a play truly without merit. The science is well, not science, but that's never been a problem in Doctor Who so long as the explanation is entertaining enough to make you want to forget that fact... here it is not, indeed it is a struggle to really pay attention.
Humour is non-existant, this is the old sixth doctor which can be fine when handled correctly, however here not only the Doctor, but every character comes of as one dimensional and impossible to relate to.
Additionally we see the return of child actors. Unlike in Leviathan where the performance was brief (and played by an adult for a reason), here it is just one more annoyance, like the pair in the Twin Dilemma or Mission to Magnus.
On the plus side this release does see the return of the tractators, if you like that kind of thing. Unfortunately they serve little purpose in the story and have very little presence.
Make no mistake, this was an episode made for Television, and while I have my doubts a different format could have saved this uninspired tale it would have meant it was less confusing. Action scenes are clumsily described in this adaptation (which is a shame, and hard to forgive given the wonderful job Paul Finch did adapting the previous story).
Even the special features give the impression of problems behind the scenes and a general unhappiness with the script (although it is never said outright).
Performances are as good as ever, the ever fantastic Colin Baker is on form as ever, which almost convinced me to give another star, but to be honest, I can't as this was a painful listen which I hope never to repeat.