Big Finish: Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Demon Song, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Demon Song, Review

Matthew Kresal hears an earworm or two.
As Doctor Who fans, we seem drawn time and again to the First Doctor era. Something about those early 1960s serials when William Hartnell's Doctor became the first to take viewers across time and space remains fascinating even after almost sixty years. That's been true even on audio, with Big Finish presenting the era across multiple ranges from the Companion Chronicles and Early Adventures to David Bradley reprising the part after inheriting it on-screen. Last year, actor Stephen Noonan became the latest to grip his lapels on audio in The Outlaws, with February seeing his return to the role for The Demon Song, also featuring The Incherton Incident.

Writer Bob Ayres kicks the set off with the titular tale. Reversing the format of the previous release, this kicks off with a two-parter and one taking place in contemporary times. It's a story with an intriguing mystery at its center involving missing people in Camden and one heck of an earworm. In many ways, Ayres' tale feels like something out of Modern Who, but that's also part of what makes it so compelling. Dropping this Doctor and companion Dodo (played once more by the immensely likable Lauren Cornelius) gives the story a different vibe, allowing Dodo to be something of a fish out of water without coming across as thick and the Doctor getting to play up the knowing grandfather figure. It's an utterly compelling mix of Who eras and a perfect launching point for this release.

The majority share of the set is a four-parter, The Incherton Incident by Nicholas Briggs (who also directs both stories in this release). With The Demon Song being a contemporary SF tale, then The Incherton Incident is the pseudo-historical of this set. Set in the seaside post-War Britain of 1947, Briggs draws on several influences. There's the austerity of the period, of course, but also the burgeoning Cold War and the residual effects of the war upon the nation at large. Into that, the Doctor and Dodo drop out of the time vortex into an explosive situation involving spies, lies, and the power to reshape or destroy the world. But while the setting and plot elements harken perhaps more to the Sylvester McCoy era of Classic Who than the Hartnell one, Briggs' handling of this Doctor and Dodo in the situation makes it a solid pastiche of this era, a 21st-century update of this era. And there's even an Easter egg for another of Briggs' audios for knowing fans to pick up on, though those who don't catch it will still have plenty to enjoy. Indeed, The Incherton Incident is a heck of a thriller in its own right, building to a fantastic final scene and speech from the Doctor.

A speech, it has to be, superbly delivered by Stephen Noonan. Range producer Mark Wright notes that The Outlaws was a proof of concept in the extras here, and nowhere does this set strive to deliver on that more than with its Doctor. Noonan (much like Tim Trealor as the Third Doctor) doesn't aim so much for being an exact match for Hartnell, though he does quite pretty dang close at times. Instead, Noonan neatly captures mannerisms that Hartnell brought to the part right down the hmms and chuckles. Even the now-famous flubs are present to add a layer of authenticity (though they're perhaps slightly overly played at times). Listeners' mileage will continue to vary, of course, but for this reviewer, Noonan builds neatly on his impressive work last year.

As does Lauren Cornelius as Dodo. Having made a solid debut in 2021’s The Secrets of Det-Sen before appearing in The Outlaws, Cornelius once more slips into the role first played by Jackie Lane all too briefly in the mid-sixties. Cornelius does a fine job capturing all of Lane's energy and enthusiasm while having a meatier role to play in things, particularly in The Demon Song, where she's given far more of a central role than Lane ever received on-screen. Given Big Finish's track record, it's unsurprising that Dodo remains better utilized with them than in virtually any of her TV appearances, continuing the renaissance for the character that looks set to continue for a good while to come.

With their mix of sixties characters and modern sensibilities, The Demon Song and The Incherton Incident are more than worthy follow-ups to last year's The Outlaws. Both stories bring the late First Doctor era to life wonderfully, from the scripts to the performances of Noonan and Cornelius. In their hands, and those of producer Mark Wright, the First Doctor seems set to wander through the fourth dimension for a while yet.

Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Demon Song is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 March 2023, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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