AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who Unbound
A Storm of Angels

Starring: Geoffrey Bayldon
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 093 2
Available 22 January 2005


The year is 1588, and Sir Francis Drake is returning from a profitable expedition to the Asteroid Belt, his hold brimming with the precious stones that have been mined there. Meanwhile, the Doctor was really enjoying his freedom, but now there's a temporal agent on his tail, who claims that the Doctor has changed history - the very idea! The President of Gallifrey is not amused. And Susan's none too well either...

When I was about ten years old, and Geoffrey Bayldon was playing the Crowman in Worzel Gummidge, I briefly laboured under the delusion that he had been the First Doctor. Well, I'd only seen a few pictures of William Hartnell by that point, and the two actors do look remarkably similar. Why they didn't cast Bayldon in The Five Doctors I will never know. I was therefore very pleased to realise, upon the announcement of Big Finish's first Doctor Who Unbound CD, Auld Mortality, in which Bayldon played an aged Doctor who hadn't yet left Gallifrey, that it wasn't just me who saw the resemblance.

This follow-up, penned by the same writer, Marc Platt, is not restricted to a single CD and runs in excess of two hours. As such, it does not feel constricted in the way that Auld Mortality did, which I felt was rendered rather perplexing as it tried to cram too many story elements into its running time. Indeed, one scene simply would not fit, and had to be deleted (but was presented on one of the Big Finish Magazine free-to-subscriber CDs).

By contrast, A Storm of Angels is a far more leisurely affair. With its space-faring Francis Drake (Cameron Stewart), it holds similar appeal to Christopher Bulis' Who novel Imperial Moon and Space 1889, the new series of audio dramas from director John Ainsworth's company, Noise Monster. Only more so, because this story is set centuries ahead of the Victorian era, so the technological advances seem all the more bizarre. Drake's Hind is a space-faring vessel, Queen Elizabeth I (Kate Brown) has a castle in orbit around the Earth, and the rival fleet to the English one belongs to the Mayan people.

Brown sounds rather like a young Judi Dench, which is probably a deliberate nod to Dench's portrayal of Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. Cameron Stewart's Drake, meanwhile, sounds to me a lot like Simon (Arthur Dent) Jones, though I'm probably associating him with Jones' role as Sir Walter "Ooh what a big ship I've got" Raleigh in Blackadder II!

Unlike Auld Mortality, A Storm of Angels is slightly over-long, but nevertheless it is a very enjoyable adventure, which boasts the added joy of hearing Bayldon and Carole Ann Ford re-create their roles as the First Doctor and Susan. Hopefully, lead actors' availability permitting, this won't be the last we'll ever hear from them.

Richard McGinlay

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