Starring Carole Ann Ford
There’s a pleasure to be had in seeing much-loved, familiar surroundings enhanced with a few carefully chosen embellishments. A sort of “Oh, you’ve redecorated? I like it!” scenario. And so it proves, in a story which fits neatly within existing Doctor Who lore.
Big Finish take the listener back to when it all began. Before it all began – pre Totters Lane, Coal Hill School and curious schoolteachers. The Beginning details an account of the Doctor and Susan’s departure from Gallifrey; two dissidents on the run.
Carole Ann Ford shoulders the narrative role, capturing the First Doctor in all his verbal tics and mannerisms and easily reviving the role of his unearthly grandchild Susan. Their close relationship is nicely written and performed, communicating the sense of affection between the two. The Doctor and Susan escape Gallifrey in an old, decommissioned timeship with nothing but some light luggage, a rather famous remote stellar device (which the Doctor uses as a door prop later on)…and an unwitting stowaway, Quadrigger Stoyn (solid support from Terry Molloy). There’s a clear hint early on that the choice of timeship was not entirely random, perhaps directed by unseen and unheard influence of an impossible girl.
The motley TARDIS crew land the borrowed-not-stolen ship on the Moon, in the underground base of the blobby Archaeons, a race of self-styled propagators, on a mission to “bring order to primal worlds”. Terry Molloy provides further vocal support as the first Archaeon, conveying a visceral sense of the otherworldly.
In the first contact between the Archaeons and the Doctor, we get a sense of his philosophy on life; delighting in its inherent chaos in contrast to the propagators’ belief in beauty through formal order. It’s unfortunate for the Archaeons that in attempting to study the Doctor’s TARDIS, they unleash chaos and disorder in the form of an uncontrolled time bubble.
Life goes on: literally. The Doctor and Susan find themselves rescued some several hundred million years later, life on Earth having taken its chaotic course while the Archaeon base has remained frozen in time. Not that the Archaeons are about to simply accept the unchecked flow of life as a fait accompli, as they seek to “rectify the error”. There are some particularly unsettling moments for the listener as the Archaeons strike back: the body-horror of their attack on the Doctor and Susan’s lunar rescuers being a particularly vivid example.
It’s an altogether more chilling moment when the first Archaeon makes his pronouncement that it has become necessary to “purge” their Earthbound experiment. But the Doctor, arch-improviser, meddler and disruptive element in the Archaeon New World Order, manages to engineer an escape plan for himself and Susan. We also see the ruthless side of his nature, as he chooses to leave Stoyn behind on an Archaeon base by now under heavy attack from Earth.
Marc Platt has crafted an entertaining origins story for the Doctor and Susan, adding depth to the original TARDIS Two. Carole Ann Ford provides a far more subtle performance than her onscreen role ever permitted her, and it’s a delight to listen to the genesis of their wanderings in the fourth dimension.
And it seems rather likely that Quadrigger Stoyn is going to be carrying a pretty hefty grudge, if he ever meets the Doctor again…
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to Big Finish
Thanks to Big Finish