Trapped in Victorian England without the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa try desperately to track down the TARDIS, ultimately resorting to – out of sheer desperation – convincing guests in a Victorian sitting room to unwittingly participate in a block-transfer computation to allow the Doctor to peer into the time vortex to look for his missing ship. But instead of a peek, the Doctor, Nyssa and two of their unsuspecting acquaintances find themselves transported into prehistoric Earth – but a prehistoric Earth that shouldn’t exist at all. The dinosaurs are nowhere to be found, and giant insects seem to overrun the planet. Even the insects, however, answer to someone else – someone eager to renew his acquaintance with the Doctor and Nyssa. They’re horrified to discover a wizened, demented old man at the heart of this world, a man they once knew as a boy called Adric. Having somehow managed to survive his fiery fall to Earth, Adric has changed history, and he has a score to settle with the Doctor…and he expects to make Nyssa his queen. But is this really Adric? And if so, can his surprisingly vicious taste for revenge be turned into his own redemption before his rule comes to an end?
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Andrew Sachs (Adric), Harriet Walter (Mrs. Beatrice Mapp), Adrian Scarborough (Rupert Von Thal), Oliver Senton (Kranlee), Claire Wyatt (Madam Teegarna)
Timeline: between The Haunting Of Thomas Brewster and Time Reef
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Ever since The Sirens Of Time, I’ve been one of those fans who likes to consider the Big Finish audio stories more or less official. Sure, there are high points and low points in Big Finish’s output, brilliant stories at least as good as anything that appeared on TV and clunkers at least as bad as the TV series’ darkest hours, but I’ve never once thought that the idea of considering Big Finish “official” was a bad one…until now.
I’m not going to seriously propose that Adric is such a beloved figure in the Doctor Who mythos that this story somehow tarnishes his memory, but I will argue strongly that the way he left the series perhaps had a more significant impact than his presence. Whether you like the character, or don’t like him but acknowledge the impact of his departure on the show, The Boy That Time Forgot takes something away from that. While there have been audio stories that have left me wondering what the point was, The Boy That Time Forgot diminishes the character and his impact, and on top of that just makes me want two hours of my life back.
The CD extras offer some insight into the problem deep at the heart of this story. Peter Davison once again takes a jab at Adric – or at least the actor who portrayed him – noting that with Andrew Sachs taking the role of the aged Adric here, Adric was “actually being played by an actor this time.” I’ve railed quite a bit against “received wisdom” in Doctor Who fandom, that fickle phenomenon that seems to suddenly decide on behalf of everyone that an episode, character, actor or an entire era of the series is crap, but The Boy That Time Forgot is the apex – or is that the nadir? – of that phenomenon dictating a story. Paul Magrs’ past novels and audio stories haven’t exactly been serious affairs, but Boy is almost a satire of Davison-era Doctor Who. Not a single criticism of Adric is left unexploited here, and Sachs gives this aged version of Adric an air of over-the-top, mincing villainy. Put simply, Boy falls back on years of tired swipes at Adric – and at Matthew Waterhouse (who is spared having to be part of this story). It’s mean-spirited, and doesn’t help the story at all.
And yet somewhere in here, there are at least some good ideas buried under the bad: we’re treated to an examination of how the Doctor’s travels don’t always help those who accompany him on the journey; while that’s a valid perspective, and an interesting avenue worthy of exploration, it’s hard to picture even the socially awkward Adric turning out to be quite that monster that Magrs makes of him here. Some scenes insinuate that, after years of separation from any other humanoids, Adric suddenly develops a rapacious streak which is promptly directed toward Nyssa. Every time an intriguing idea rears its head, it seems to be put on pause to make way for more character assassination.
Big Finish admitted, in the run-up to Boy‘s release, that the story would prove to be controversial. They’ve said that before, and nothing’s ever chased me off before – not even Full Fathom Five or The Kingmaker. If the story offered some controversial new take on the character, rather than grafting a lot of fannish criticisms and complaints onto the plot, I’d be up for it, controversy and all – but this story doesn’t even do that much. I really envy Time, because this is one Boy I’d rather forget.