The Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive just in time to see famed archaeologist Howard Carter unearth one of the more interesting Egyptian tombs he would excavate prior to discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun. But what Carter finds here startles the TARDIS crew: evidence that another time traveler may be nearby, altering the course of human history. A distress call then leads the Doctor and his friends to a remote laboratory where Dr. Verryman is trying to crack a genetic code that could lead to the mental improvement of the human race – whether the human race wants it or not. The code turns out to be a mathematical virus which infects the Doctor’s mind: kill and cure could be the same thing. The TARDIS next lands in England on V-E day, where a man from 1945 has procured alien technology allowing him to control others’ minds. The device has attracted the attention of not only the Doctor, but of the Forge as well, and the consequences hit close to home for both Ace and Hex. At a top secret base in Antarctica in 2012, the time travelers arrive just after a murder that should never have happened with the base’s tight security measures…and of course, this means the Doctor and his companions are now the prime suspects.
written by Mark Morris (False Gods), Nick Scovell (Order Of Simplicity), Mark Michalowski (Casualties Of War), Steven Hall (The Word Lord)
directed by Ken Bentley
music by Richard Fox and Lauren Yason, Matthew Cochrane, and Steve Foxon
False Gods: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Benedict Cumberbatch (Howard Carter), Lucy Adams (Jane Templeton), Paul Lincoln (Robert Charles), Jon Glover (Creodont), Paul Lincoln (Robot)
Order of Simplicity: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Jon Glover (Dr. Verryman), Lucy Adams (Mrs Crisp), Benedict Cumberbatch (Thing 2), Paul Lincoln (Thing 1)
Casualties of War: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Paul Reynolds (Joey Carlisle), Linda Marlowe (May), Beth Chalmers (Audrey), Beth Chalmers (Miss Merchant), Andrew Dickens (PC Miller)
The Word Lord: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Linda Marlowe (Commander Claire Spencer), Paul Reynolds (Nobody No-One), Andrew Dickens (Captain James Hurst), Paul Lincoln (Private Fenton), Beth Chalmers (System)
Timeline: between The Dark Husband and The Magic Mousetrap
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Another release in the multi-story format that I enjoyed so much in Circular Time and 100, Forty-Five‘s title is no mystery – its release coincided with the 45th anniversary of the first broadcast of the original Doctor Who TV series. But Big Finish cleverly takes it a step further, having asked the writers of the four single-episode stories to incorporate the number 45 into their stories as a plot point.
What’s even more clever is that the listener will latch onto that early in the game, so even though the four adventures are separate, there’s a cumulative effect – the Doctor and his friends are aware of the odd number of times they’re running into 45 as well. It’s a craftily assembled quartet of adventures, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
False Gods’ big appeal is the appearance of archaeologist Howard Carter. Though he’s played in a bit of a stiff-upper-lip manner, the script isn’t condescending to him; if things take a downhill turn, it’s the rogue Time Lord element that seems more like something inherited from the Peter Davison era. It just seems out of place here: there was something refreshing about – the Hand of Omega aside – McCoy not dealing with Time Lord intrigue all the time.
Order Of Simplicity is a bit strange – exactly the kind of utterly bizarre adventure which would frequently crop up in McCoy’s brief TV tenure. Its slightly far-fetched mad scientist/mad revolutionist concepts are a bit over the top, but there’s some amusement value to the Doctor losing his genius while Ace is becoming smarter.
The highlight of Forty-Five is easily Casualties Of War, a post-WWII period piece heavy with callbacks to The Curse Of Fenric. (If you’re going to heavily reference a TV story, which is a bit unusual for most of Big Finish’s output, you might as well go with one of the good ones.) It goes back to Ace’s backstory again (though the side is let down a bit by a child character’s voice that obviously isn’t performed by a child – in fact, it sounds sped-up, fake and kinda creepy), but it also sets up more of Hex’s backstory, and plants another foot on the path down revealing Hex’s own heritage (and the Doctor’s involvement in it) to him. More and more, it looks like this won’t be an easy revelation – it’s more of a collision course. This story alone is worth the price of admission.
The Word Lord is flat-out wacky – Delta And The Bannermen wacky – but instead of being played tongue-in-cheek, it’s played for tension and terror, and winds up cranking up quite a bit of suspense for a story that, at its heart, is really quite silly. It seems to be setting up a new adversary for the seventh Doctor…an adversary that, to be completely honest, I’m not too eager to see again. Hopefully they’ll take their time with the rematch here.
All in all though, the cumulative effect is at least entertaining, with one smashing good story (Casualties Of War) right in the middle of it all.