Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles go back to the beginning – their Destination being the new First Doctor Adventures audios, starring David Bradley & the cast from An Adventure in Space and Time. Spoilers after the ‘read more’ tag, as per usual.
SCRIBBLES: The question, really, is what you’re looking for. This is not a faithful recreation of the Hartnell era, not completely. It takes structural and thematic cues from it, as well as characters in basic spirit and name, but it is not a return to the era. With new characters comes a new approach, infinitely informed by the present day. And I’ve gotta say, I think that’s the right thing to do. I’ve been rather hard on the Early Adventures as of late because I think there’s been a tendency to push too hard toward fitting into the past, rather than adapting it in loving new ways. This hits the right balance. I don’t quite adore everything about these two stories, but these two stories signify a fantastic new approach for Big Finish to go in in representing one of my favorite eras. The Hartnell era was never a stagnant thing. It was always full of new life pushing in different directions, building the show that we now know and love and exploring avenues that both created that and ones that were fascinating but unsustainable experiments. Though this isn’t a faithful recreation, it recaptures a lot of the raw energy that I love about the time.
TIBERE: Well, it’s really rather lovely. I think the best way to approach it is to follow Big Finish’s own patterns of classification and consider this to be firmly part of the New Series, at least in spirit. The stories are very much, aesthetically and thematically, part of the Hartnell era, but it’s a modern reinterpretation of it, informed by politics, a cheeky metatextual streak, and a progressive edge. As two pieces of storytelling, these have their flaws – the second far more than the first -, and the actors’ new takes on the iconic performances of the original crew might take some getting used to, but I’d call that set some of the most enjoyable audio Who of the year, for me at least. More than that, they’re a perfect example of what Big Finish can bring to Who storytelling, finding new and very interesting conceptual spaces to explore and analyse.