Serpent Crest Part 1: Tsar Wars

Doctor WhoThe Doctor and Mrs. Wibbsey are abducted from Nest Cottage by robots and transported via wormhole to another world. Stuck without the TARDIS, the Doctor and Mrs. Wibbsey are surrounded by robots who outwardly resemble humans, the remnants of the Robotov Empire. They want the Doctor’s help with their future leader, a cyborg child named Alexander. There’s other intrigue as well: the robots are former slaves of a human colony whose leader fancies himself the descendant of Russian Tsars, and worse yet, he’s convinced that the Doctor is a rebel leader named Father Gregory. One of the robots whisks Mrs. Wibbsey away through another wormhole to meet Father Gregory personally (and he is, indeed, the spitting image of the Doctor, give or take a beard). When the Doctor learns that Father Gregory has made a deal with an immensely dangerous race known as the Skishtari, and has an egg containing the gene banks of the Skishtari, he decides to solve two problems at once: Alexander and his ward, Boolin, will be sent back to Earth to take shelter in Nest Cottage, where the Skishtari egg can also be placed in statis and prevented from hatching. Of course, this entire plan hinges on the Robotovs’ wormholes being more accurate than the TARDIS…

Order this CDwritten by Paul Magrs
directed by Kate Thomas
music by Simon Power

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Susan Jameson (Mrs. Wibbsey), Michael Jayston (The Tsar), Suzy Aitchison (The Tsarina), Simon Shepherd (Boolin), Sam Hoare (Lucius), Paul Chequer (Servo Robot), Grant Gillespie (Servo Robot), Gabriel Vick (Servo Robot)

Notes: Guest star Michael Jayston appears in a role unrelated to his infamous recurring Doctor Who character, the Valeyard (from the 1986 Trial Of A Time Lord season). Sam Hoare went on to appear as Doctor Who floor manager (and future director) Douglas Camfield in the 2013 docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time. The Doctor says he appeared in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Timeline: moments after Sepulchre and before The Broken Crown; prior to The Ribos Operation

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: With Tsar Wars, the BBC Audiobooks fourth Doctor adventures vault over the fence that separated its productions from Big Finish’s full-cast audio dramas. There’s minimal narration in Tsar Wars; it’s mainly just an economy-sized cast acting out the story in real time. It’s common, with a small radio or audio cast, for everyone to double up and play additional parts, and this time even Tom Baker isn’t immune, playing Father Gregory not unlike his big screen, pre-Doctor-Who role of Rasputin.

Doctor WhoEven with Tom Baker spending a few minutes of Tsar Wars sporting an outrageous accent (bonus points if you automatically thought of Monty Python And The Holy Grail there), the cast is on top form. Michael Jayston even manages not to make me think of the Valeyard. The change of format demonstrates that the BBC could, if it wanted to, give Big Finish a run for its money. This should come as no surprise – the BBC still produces drama for radio all the time, but the sheer depth of sound design that Big Finish pours into its productions raises the bar. Tsar Wars may well be the BBC/AudioGo’s best attempt to meet them head-on.