Big Finish: Doctor Who - SHADOW OF THE SUN Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - SHADOW OF THE SUN Review

Matthew Kresal basks in the warmth of the sun.

There's an old Chinese saying that says, "May you live in interesting times." For the last two months or so, it seems that people the world over have been doing just that. The creative folks at Big Finish are no exception to the Coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing & lockdown measures taken, but they have worked through the situation and created new audio dramas via the power of modern technology. One of those, initially set for release in 2024 as part of the thirteenth season of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, has now been released, as something of a proof of concept. So how does Shadow of the Sun stack up?

Writer Robert Valentine (who has a track record of audio dramas including the awarding-winning Cold War alternate history thriller Red Moon) has certainly crafted an intriguing tale. The Fourth Doctor, Leela, and K-9 find themselves on a space liner with a cocktail party going down. It soon becomes apparent that things aren't quite as pleasant on board as it at first appears, thanks to equipment failures, a passenger going missing, and a pseudoscience cult. In short, Valentine has all the ingredients necessary for a cracking good Doctor Who story.

To Valentine's credit, his script delivers one. Shadow of the Sun is compelling from its opening scene that could give Robert Shearman a run for his money as a black comedy opener for a piece. The pace continues to build through the cliffhanger with the gradual sense of something being wrong, and the eventual race against time. Along the way, the script raises some fascinating questions about pseudoscience, the willingness to believe despite all evidence, and those who would take advantage of them. Valentine's dialogue also captures the dynamic of this TARDIS crew incredibly well, right up to the final scene where Tom Baker and Louise Jameson play off of each other wonderfully. If you're looking for something which highlights Big Finish's storytelling abilities, here's a script that does that in spades.

Shadow of the Sun is also well-told as a production. The cast is spot-on, lead by Baker and Jameson, who both hand in strong performances, especially in scenes in the story's back-half when trying desperately to convince those onboard of what's coming. Supporting them is Paul Herzberg as the pseudoscientist Dr. Suleiman Zorn and Fenella Woolgar (who played Agatha Christie in the Tenth Doctor episode The Unicorn & The Wasp) as his patron, Lady Malina Rigel-Smythe. Herzberg is perfect casting for the role of a seemingly reasonable person making, and selling, extraordinary claims, with Woolgar offering up a delicious parody of the wealthy and celebrity types who help give such things credibility. Rounding off the cast is the ever-dependable John Leeson as the voice of K-9 (and a passenger early on) and Barnaby Edwards in the dual roles of the ship's first officer and computer, the latter of which sees him putting on his best comic airs. Their performances are brought out by the sound design of Toby Hrycek-Robinson and the music score from Jamie Robertson, the latter of whom neatly evokes both Dudley Simpson's and Modern Who TV scores. Truth be told, if Big Finish hadn't said they had recorded this under lockdown at remote locations across the UK, you'd never tell the difference from one of their regular productions in recent years. It sounds that good!

As a proof of concept for recording audio drama during Covid-19, Shadow of the Sun is a massive success. Just as importantly, perhaps, it's also a strong story that showcases everything Big Finish have excelled at doing with Doctor Who over the last two decades. If you've not heard a Big Finish Doctor Who adventure before, do yourself a favor and get this one. If only to escape the world we're living in for seventy minutes or so. And, perhaps, discover a whole universe of adventures you've missed out on before.

Shadow Of The Sun is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until June 30th 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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