Be warned though both Adric and Romana are at their most aggravating (In fact at times I think you can hear Lalla Ward adjust her pitch for that purpose)
The Quest of the Engineer
Also a very good story with much more agreeable characterization of the Companions.
Tom Baker and John Lesson continue to seem to enjoy themselves (Tom gives a couple of perfect comebacks in Witches)
I think I'd give an overall score of 4/5.
I haven't heard all of Witches yet, but I think Lalla's dialogue doesn't do Romana many favours at times. Answering 'obviously' to every question put to her gets on my nerves, and I'm a huge Romana fan!
Possibly the most layered story so far from this series, that is to say there were times where I really didn't follow what was going on. But that's okay - I remember having a few of those moments during Series 18 all those years ago. This is a good story with some rich and fruity performances. The dialogue isn't afraid to play up to Adric's more irritating side, and as such, it remains something of a mystery why The Doctor is so fond of him. Equally, Romana is rather spiky from time to time, and while Lalla Ward doesn't play against that (why should she?), her dialogue lends her an air of superiority that isn't balanced with much in the way of the appeal she had on television. She calls Adric a 'little rat' on one occasion, and suggests to him he leaves the TARDIS at the end of the story, letting out a big sigh when he says he's happy on board. It can't be that much of a balance to get right, but it is true to say there was an air of morosity about the original series 18, so this is really just hitting the same beats as CHB's vision for he show. It is good to hear Lalla (and Matthew: "Romana's quite vinegary in this, but that's true to character.") so chirpy in the extras, and how she still enjoys the stories.
K-9 on the other hand, shines thanks to the script and of course John Leeson's performance. Abigail McKern is great in her multiple roles. To a large extent, much of the story's dramatic impetus relies on her, and she never falters.
So, three down in this return to E Space, and one to go. So far so good!
Alan Barnes is probably my least favourite of the Big Finish writers and his stories often feel forced, laboured and about as funny as toothache to me. However I forgive him every single groan and yawn he has given me over the years because Planet of Witches soars above and beyond the bulk of every Big Finish release ever. Each episode just got better and better and the performances of the regulars couldn't have been tighter. Lalla Ward in particular gives her absolute all in this and just steals the show. It won't be too long before this gets a relisten. The E-Space stories have been a long held dream and Big Finish haven't disappointed so far. Best Tom sets ever!
Planet Of The Witches is my least favorite of this series. Most of you know that I'm not a Lala Ward fan, and I almost wanted to hit her in this one. It was a forgettable story for me and I don't believe any of the cast really shined in this.
The Quest of The Engineer however, was completely the opposite. It was atmospheric, interesting and really showcased not just the regulars but the guest cast as well. And I even (almost) enjoyed Romana in this one. She wasn't brittle and snarky but truly part of the story. She spent the most time with the Engineer and their scenes were excellent. I thought the actor who played Jonah was amazing and played that character perfectly. He could have just been another villain's muscle character but I believe the actor elevated that role to something much more.
Adric was written so well. Yes, he was an annoying teen, but he was smart and brave and willing to sacrifice himself for his friends and for what it right. That's a big part of his character that people seem to miss a lot. And Tom was perfect as always. He almost took a back seat to Romana in this one, and I actually found that ok with the way she was played this time around. But I say almost, because it is called Doctor Who! I loved him making his way through the planet-ship and making new friends along the way. Really excellent stuff. This one and Chase The Night may now be my top 2 BF Fourth Doctor stories ever.
I found The Quest of the Engineer to be a good solid story, as is often the case with the reliable Andrew Smith - and it is startling to me that he is the link between the original televised sojourn into E Space, and BF's welcome return there. These four stories have done sterling work in acheiving the impossible, for me at least. Series 18, with its autumnal nostalgia, its (then) new experiments with regular electronic music scores, the melancholy that accompanied Romana and K9's imminent departure from the series - all these things are impossible to recreate. With that in mind, I have really enjoyed these stories, partly because they recreate a favourite time for me regarding Doctor Who, and partly because they return to the four-part format that I feel really allows stories and characters to breathe.
This is great. The four regulars all have great lines and moments - effotlessly, Adric is now more likeable and resourceful and Romana is the usual elegant, brave character I remember her being. The character of the Engineer, as noted in the extras, had to be played by a particularly good actor, and Nicholas Woodeson certainly is that. By the story's close, he's become one of the more three-dimensional villains we've had.
As Andrew Smith says, it's great to hear Tom, Lalla, Matthew and John mentioning E-Space and CVEs again.
I'd certainly welcome more adventures for this team in E-Space in the future.
The Quest Of The Engineer, Andrew Smith shows yet again why he's such a wonderful writer delivering not only a interesting audio drama with well written characters but making one feel empathy for the Engineers motives during a heartbreaking finale.
Tom Bakers on great form displaying both anger & humour while Adric is far better written in these syories than he was on tv, my only gripe is Lalla Ward who gives another monotone performance but overall this is a great conclusion to series 9 & i hope this 4 x 4 range continues as the longer format makes for better storytelling in my opinion.
I assume that this series, and especially, Quest of the Engineer is supposed to dovetail into Warrior's Gate. As that specific story, over time, has became one of my favorite Classic Who stories, when QotE ended, it made me want to dig up my DVD E-Space Trilogy... and that means it succeeded in slotting into this gap.
I'm glad that BF gave us this series of 4-parters.
Oh, I think both the writers and Matthew do pretty well with Adric.
Some of the comments of Lalla Ward being a big overly-snarky, okay I can see it occasionally, but I thought she did fine.
Mad Uncle Tom... well, he largely still sounds like the Doctor to me, the only thing I didn't like was the occasional squeak in his voice.
I really enjoyed Quest of the Engineer. The regulars do a great job, everybody gets a moment to shine and there is plenty of action and drama and crazy sci-fi ideas. Plus we get a great villain, I really do love my evil super villain scientists. And in short, this was just really fun to listen to.
I've been listening to Planet of Witches one part at a time this week. I am often not very complimentary about Alan Barnes or his work, but he knocks it out of the park in this one. Not only a great story by his usual standard, but a brilliant release from Big Finish. The stakes build up throughout, the main cast are all given plenty of material, the supporting cast are all rounded and developed. I understand the posts about the way Lalla plays Romana for Big Finish, and I sometimes agree with them. She's utterly scathing in Planet of Witches, but I think it works - she goes through the wringer in this and already has an established rocky relationship with the Doctor and Adric, so I understand the portrayal completely.
It's hit after hit for this series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures so far and I'm sure The Quest of the Engineer will continue that.
Just finished The Quest of the Engineer. I couldn't make up my mind whether I was enjoying it or not for the first two parts. It all seemed quite low-key and chatty, despite there being a big concept introduced in the cliffhanger to part one. When we get to part three and Romana's scenes with the Engineer, I was starting to warm to the story and ended up appreciating it for what it is: an atmospheric character piece. It just took me half the story to realise that for some reason! A great adventure upon reflection, with some brilliant material for all of the characters, especially Romana and the Engineer.
I can't really compliment this series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures enough. It truly feels like it can hold its own amongst the other brilliant Fourth Doctor material outside of his own range - it's only taken eight years for that! The 4x4 format works wonders, but I think the authenticity of this series has really solidified it. The writing, the music, the performances; it's all so masterfully crafted and it slots into Season 18, or rather the E-Space adventures, perfectly.
A series of Season 12 adventure at some point please, Big Finish? Perhaps for the 50th anniversary in 2024?
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