Saturday, August 29, 2020

Two Doctors Finding the Time to Fight Daleks

What's Ten and Four, wears a scarf and pinstripes? The two Doctor's featured in Out of Time, a new Doctor Who audio play released this month starring Tom Baker and David Tennant. Since the Fourth and Tenth Doctors tend to rank at the top of Doctor rankings, this is a pretty momentous match up. Expectations were therefore bound to exceed the results and, while Out of Time is good, the story falls well short of the best of Big Finish audio plays. Still, listening to Baker and Tennant interacting is definitely a treat.

How much interaction there was isn't entirely clear. In the interviews included with the release, the staff and performers talk a little about the challenge of recording this audio play in lockdown. Everyone recorded from their homes and each performer was responsible for creating or finding an environment for good sound quality. Everyone seems to have done a good job on this front--it's technically flawless. Tennant, as always, is a master at bringing life to dialogue. Baker seems a little subdued and perhaps he suffered from not being in the same studio to play off the other actors--improvisation is a big part of what makes his Doctor great.

Set during the era of final specials when Ten was travelling alone, it feels very much like a Tenth Doctor story in which the Fourth guest stars rather than vice versa. Still evading his inevitable regeneration, Ten shows up at a special Celestial Temple outside of normal time and space where people from everywhere and -when go for rest and contemplation. Mechanisms are in place to prevent time streams from crossing but restraint encourages Ten to rebel even more and, using his sonic screwdriver to bypass the safety measures, he soon stumbles on Four working away on a replica of the Sistine Chapel.

Trouble arises when the Daleks invade and the two Doctors are forced to work together to stop them. A lot of the story deals with the Doctor's penchant for breaking rules for necessity and whim and this connects to Ten's current "I don't want to go" state of mind. Four is curiously critical of Ten's attitude about mortality, surprised at his successor's reluctance to regenerate, something that feels both like a Classic fan's criticism of New and like a very credible conversation for the two to have. According to the bonus interviews included with the release, Four initially had even more dialogue critical of Ten but it was toned down at Tom Baker's request. It goes to show what a sweet guy Baker is.

I don't have anything against the idea of the Doctor being reluctant to regenerate per se but Ten dragged it on so long that it really became a low point for his tenure. So it was kind of nice hearing Four give him some gentle rebuke. It also leads to an amusing moment at the end where Four essentially invites Ten to be his companion for a while.

Out of Time is available at Big Finish.

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