Blurb: The planet Colophos is a dead world. Nothing but dust and rubble – and the ruins of a once-great civilisation. But is it really as dead as it appears? When the Doctor and Leela land, joined by the crew of the Oligarch survey ship, it’s not long before they receive a communication from one of the ruins. A communication from Astaroth Morax, the last of the Colophon. Attended by a sadistic robot nurse, Morax is in a wheelchair and bound in bandages to conceal his terrible injuries. But is he really as powerless as he seems? What became of the rest of his race – and why didn’t he die with them?
Entering his lair, the Doctor uncovers a terrifying secret…
Review: The first three years of Tom Baker’s run as the Doctor saw a lot of stories inspired by classic horror films. King Kong, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and various werewolf films were the fodder that producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes used to create what is usually considered the greatest era of Doctor Who. When creating his latest Fourth Doctor Adventure, writer Jonathan Morris also looked to the Universal Horror franchise and noted one character that had been omitted. To note what movie it is would give away a big reveal in the story, but it is incredibly fitting and a wonderful idea to be mined for science fiction. The result is a story that doesn’t feel too far from what would have been put on screen in seasons 14 or 15, which is not a bad starting place.
The cast this time around put in a very strong performance. Tom and Louise are on their toes and the banter between the Doctor and Leela fits the characters very well. The idea of the Doctor thinking that he should take Leela camping is great as is the fact that he’s doing it on a planet that is so completely unsuitable for it. This story really gives Leela a chance to shine and making her the Doctor’s equal but in different ways. As a hunter she is unmatched and it allows her to be a suitable foil to their foe in this story. The Doctor in many ways is sidelined in the early part of the story but once he comes into his own towards the end, his confrontation with the enemy is everything that you’d come to expect from Tom Baker’s Doctor. There’s moral outrage and the regret of the potential of a man of science wasted by doing something horrific. Tom plays it all with the supreme skill of an old expert and the two of them are a real pleasure to listen to.
The guest cast is just as good. For the second story in a row, a Blake’s 7 alumn shows up in the form of Gareth Thomas who plays Morax. Morax starts the story seeming like he’s a victim, but it’s evident from the story that he has some secret and there’s more to his story than what he’s saying. The revelation of his secret and the subsequent performance is incredibly good and one wishes that he could have worked with Tom Baker back on Doctor Who in the 70’s. I think that special mention ought to be given to Jessica Martin as Deputy Surveyor Sutton. Upon her first appearance she seems to be one of those Doctor Who characters who does nothing but say and do stupid things to obstruct the Doctor even after he’s proven right. Yet, over the course of the story we get to understand a bit about her background and she grows on you as someone who can change her opinions and is strong and brave. I really liked her character and it’s hard to make that much of a change over the course of two episodes. The rest of the cast is good for what they need to be, but don’t really distinguish themselves. I think it hurt that we never got an impression of scale for Nurse Torvik. She looks like a flesh-and-blood humanoid woman on the CD cover but the sounds make it seem like she’s some kind of anthropomorphic tank. The music also helps to create a nice atmosphere in the story. It’ll help to conjure up images of watching this story with 1977’s special effects in fans of the classic series.
The plot is something of a mixed bag. The central conceit is awesome and it fits so well with the particular era of Doctor Who in which these stories are set. The characters are well realized. There are a few twists along the way and one really big cliffhanger. I also like that for the most part the science works. When other series have used this particular conceit they have almost inevitably gotten one thing wrong, but this story shows that with this particular ability there is a downside as well, which fits with what has been established by physics. Yet there are a few problems with the story as well. First, it tries to convince that the story is over about 5 minutes into episode two and anyone listening will realize that it isn’t and also think that the main characters are kind of idiots for not noticing the BIG CLUES that it isn’t. Morax has apparently been alive for a thousand years. Are all members of his race so long-lived or was this something that happened as a result of his research? Does he have some form of anti-agapic? If so you’d think that Sutton would have wanted to exploit it but she doesn’t even blink at his story. Then there’s the major one where the Doctor states that the sonic screwdriver would have no effect on their foe. More can’t be stated without giving a tremendous spoiler but there’s no reason why sound wouldn’t be useful against what he says and it shows a distinct lack of understanding of physics after the really good physics on display earlier in the story.
Recommendation: Last of the Colophon is a worthy continuation of Tom Baker’s time as the Doctor. It’s intelligent, dark, and humorous. There is some fantastic plotting if some uneven writing, but the acting is all top notch. While this should be a winner for any fan of Tom Baker’s era of the classic series this one is perfectly accessible for anyone listening to a Fourth Doctor story for the first time. I highly recommend it.
Big Finish Productions
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Produced by David Richardson
Written by Jonathan Morris
Runtime Approx 60 min.