Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Early Adventures 1.1 - Domain of the Voord

Marco Polo. That got you interested didn’t it? Two words, but conjuring up a whole load of images, emotions, memories, hopes and dreams.
Marco Polo, as we all know, is the earliest of the fabled “missing episodes”. I first read the Target novelisation back in the late 1980′s and was drawn in to its world. I remember after reading it I hoped that it’s VHS release would follow soon. This fledgling fan had no idea that a lot of early Who was missing from the archives. Which brings my on to Big Finish.
Earlier this year the “Companion Chronicles” series came to an end, but from their ashes rises a new range – “The Early Adventures” – different from The Companion Chronicles in their structure, yet similar enough to be a spiritual successor.These are the stories of the black and white era Doctors told by his companions and the first of these is Domain of the Voord, set sometime after Keys of Marinus but before Dalek Invasion of Earth.
So why, dear reader, was I waxing lyrical about Marco Polo earlier on in this review? Was it a ploy to get you to read on, would I be so manipulative? To find out, read on (see what I did there?!)
The story is in many ways typical early Hartnell, but also not. It is narrated and acted by William Russell who played Ian Chesterton and Carole Ann Ford who played Susan along with a supporting cast playing the other roles. Unlike the Companion Chronicles, this is a four part story, it is part acted, part narrated in the third and first person.  The style does take a bit of getting used to and is quite distracting, but you do eventually get a feel for the story.
So the plot, as I said, quite typical Hartnell with the TARDIS arrives in a situation, the crew are separated from the TARDIS and accused of being spies. So far, so Hartnell.
They have arrived on the planet Hydra and typically for the Hartnell era, it’s a planet named after one of its features – it’s pretty much all water.  The Hydrans have been invaded by the Voord, the most typical “man in a rubber suit” monster you can get, last seen in The Keys of Marinus, only this time they are a real threat – they have won. The Hydrans are a rag tag bunch of survivors on a flotilla of ships trying to fight back, then the Voord attack, the Doctor and Barbara are missing presumed dead, the TARDIS is lost, Ian and Susan have to deal with the loss of their loved ones whilst becoming part of the resistance against the Voord.
So far, so Hartnell – in fact it’s so atypically of the era that the Doctor and Barbara don’t even appear in episodes two and three.  Listening to this I imagined it in black and white with model shots of ships and sci fi cities.
So why Marco Polo? Well, thank you for your patience.  It reminds me very much of Marco Polo because of its epic scale and the time the story is set over. Ian and Susan are two months at sea with the Hydrans and it feels like a physical and emotional ordeal. There is a very, very interesting scene where Susan talks to a Voord prisoner, a chilling piece that I would have liked to have heard more of, almost a Clarice and Hannibal Lecter moment, you could cut the tension with a knife as Nebrin the captured Voord commander sizes up and tries to manipulate Susan – a very powerful scene. Lots are made of the Voord in this story, and a very silly one off monster are given a whole mythology which I hope is delved into again.  How they recruit people to their cause is quite macabre, an almost David Cronenburg level of body horror is present.
A bit of an epic then? Yes in many ways, but it feels like it should have been shot on small sets in lime grove, and probably wouldn’t have been as epic on screen as it was on audio…
A bit like when Marco Polo was found and it wasn’t as good as the novel Winking face
Only joking……..or am I…..?
A great start to a new series, I look forward to hearing more 9/10.