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5 May 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Guy Adams & Sarah Grochala

RRP: £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"5.1  For the Glory of Urth by Guy Adams

The TARDIS has barely landed in an alien sewer when a distant scream sends Susan racing to give aid, and the crew split up.

Trying to reunite, the travellers find themselves in something resembling a monastery led by a man half-way between an Abbot and a warlord. They discover that they are in Urth, a barbaric place clinging on to its former glory.

It's somewhere its populace are never allowed to leave, somewhere keeping many secrets from its people.

And today those secrets will be revealed...

5.2 The Hollow Crown by Sarah Grochala

When the TARDIS lands in Shoreditch, 1601, the Doctor suggests going to see a play at the Globe Theatre and his friends readily agree.

But this is a turbulent time. There is violence in the street, plots against the Queen, and rebellion is in the air. At the centre of it all stands the most famous playwright in British history - William Shakespeare - who is having troubles of his own.

As tensions mount and wheels turn within wheels, the travellers are about to discover if the play really is the thing..."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

I’m going to admit right off the bat that whilst I was always interested in listening to these audio adventures featuring David Bradley’s version of the First Doctor, I just never got round doing so. So listening to The First Doctor Adventures: Volume Five for this review has been my first foray into this version of the First Doctor’s era, and whilst it was a bit of a mixed affair, I will definitely be coming back to listen to more in the future. 

The first of the two stories on this boxset is For the Glory of Urth by Guy Adams, an adventure in a dystopian future where everything is horrible and bleak. The ‘humans’ who are left in this dark, disturbing world despise aliens with a passion, which isn’t good news for the Doctor and his friends. 

Out of the TARDIS team, it’s probably Susan, played by Claudia Grant, who gets the most to do in this story. She becomes a voice of reason in this horrific future world and is eventually sent on a diplomatic mission to improve relations between the humans and the aliens they hate so much. The exploration and focus on Susan’s character in this story was something I was a big fan of, and is something I’m glad to say is a major part of this boxset as a whole. 

I guess my main criticism of this story, however, is just how little else really happens. The Doctor spends most of the adventure locked up and tortured, whilst Ian and Barbara are sent down the sewers along with Brooskin, the weird-looking creature on the cover of the boxset, who’s as odd as it looks. There’s a couple of close shaves with death for the trio, but other than that, they don’t get much to do, which I found to be a little disappointing. I hate to admit it, but I found my attention drifting often during this story too. It’s a real shame because I usually really enjoy stories based in dystopian settings like this. It just didn’t really feel like a First Doctor adventure to me, and I don’t think the pace of the play helped either. 

I must say that I did enjoy the portrayal of Urth’s very own Big Brother, Daddy Dominous, played by Clive Wood, though. His slimy announcements over the tannoy system and bickering with Mummy Martial (Amanda Hurwitz) gave this otherwise bleak tale a bit of a humour and light-heartedness. And Bruddle Medicus (Phil Mulryne), a sadist who loves experimenting on aliens and making them scream, is utterly despicable and is one of those characters that makes you wish horrible things upon them. 

Though this story did miss the mark a bit for me personally, I’m sure that if you’re a fan of Orwellian-type dystopian stories, where themes of hatred and fear of the unknown are examined in great detail, then this should well be a story you’ll enjoy. 

The second story, The Hollow Crown, written by Sarah Grochala, was much more up my street and, in my opinion, was the stronger of the two stories. 

Following on from their trip to the horrible future, the TARDIS team land in the equally horrible past, in London, where the threat of revolution is growing and tensions are high. The TARDIS crew must team up with William Shakespeare himself to ensure that history doesn’t go awry and that the world’s most famous playwright doesn’t lose his head. 

Following on from her star turn in the previous adventure, Susan is once more given a lot to do in this story. Her partnership with Lauren Cornelius’ Jude was one of the strongest parts of the play, and gave Susan an opportunity to explore her rebellious side, much to the displeasure of the rest of the gang. 

Again, this story doesn’t give Ian and Barbara much to do, and the Doctor is once more locked up, but his chats with Nicholas Ashbury’s more weary version of Shakespeare in the Tower of London were yet another highlight of the story. I was also a big fan of the fact that the Doctor’s future meddling, aka marrying and ditching Elizabeth I, affected this Doctor, despite him being centuries away from even doing those things. A little nod to The Shakespeare Code also gave me a geeky little buzz too.

The guest cast in this story were brilliant, in particular Lauren Cornelius as Jude and Wendy Craig as Elizabeth I. Ian Conningham was great as both the villain of the play, Lord Cecil, and as the Earl of Essex, and Liane-Rose Bunch is a lot of fun as the ambitious and power-hungry, Lady Penelope Rich. 

The biggest highlight of this boxset for me is the development of Susan. Carole Ann Ford herself said that all Susan seemed to do in the show was scream at things, but this boxset does much, much more than have Susan be the whiny damsel in distress. The Susan in these stories is headstrong, she dives into action, and she’s more than ready to rebel against her grandfather and her friends if it means doing the right thing. In fact, she’s almost unrecognisable from the Susan in the show at times, and that’s no bad thing. The expansion of Susan’s character is the biggest achievement of this boxset for me, and Claudia Grant is excellent in the role. 

David Bradley, Claudia Grant, Jamie Glover, and Jemma Powell really have made the roles of the original TARDIS team their own, and by the end of this boxset I was completely convinced that they were the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan. Whilst it was a bit of a mixed bag for me, there were still some interesting ideas in here, and great performances from the whole cast, regulars and guests alike. With this boxset ending on an intriguing little cliff-hanger, it’s safe to say that I am definitely up for finding out what happens next! An enjoyable listen for the most part. 

+ The 1st Doc. Adventures: Vol. 5 is OUT NOW, priced £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

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