The 4th Doctor's Return - A fan's reaction

barnabeee's picture

barnabeee - Posted on 08 September 2009


For many Doctor Who fans, especially those of a certain age (and it still upsets me that I can now use that phrase about myself!), the biggest news of the summer - with the exception of the first pictures of the 11th Doctor - has been the return of Tom Baker to the role that made him a national institution and an icon all over the world. Yes, the 4th Doctor is back - in a 5 part audio adventure called Hornet's Nest from BBC Audio. It's been almost 30 years since the 4th Doctor had a new adventure. 30 years since those wonderful warm and throaty tones have been part of a new Doctor Who story.

 Hornets Nest Cover


But then there was the announcement of Richard Franklin as the main support. I like Captain Yates, but it seemed like an odd pairing. I purposely avoided the trailers, but I couldn't miss the bad word of mouth. I was understandably concerned. But then the articles in Doctor Who Magazine came out, and the excitement was back. And then September came. And the wait is over. Hornet's Nest: The Stuff of Nightmares has now been released. 

So what did I think? (Note: There will be some mild spoilers in the following blog, but I will not be running down the entire plot)



It wasn't what I expected. I had expected something along the lines of a Big Finish play. Instead what I got was a super version of the Companion Chronicles crossed with Doctor Who and the Pescatons (which I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed!). This didn't have to be a bad thing - but then there was the setup. The 4th Doctor has taken up residence in an English cottage in the middle of deepest Sussex. And he has a housekeeper. This doesn't seem in character at all for the constant traveller, who visits alien world after alien world. And why does he need Captain Yates? And why does his first monologue sound more like the narrator of "Little Britain"?

I have to admit, after 20 minutes - most of which felt like Richard Franklin talking about Captain Yates travelling to Sussex - I was hugely disappointed. I thought about the other 4th Doctor nostalgia fest that had brightened the start of the summer - the absolutely marvellous Companion Chronicle "The Mahogany Murders" featuring Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot from The Talons of Weng Chiang, and I wondered how that could be so wonderful with 2 people basically talking to each other in long monologues, but this, with Mr Tom Baker himself, was not. How was this possible?

But then something happened........

The 4th Doctor started to get going and the adventure. And then he and Captain Yates had a conversation that wasn't a long story, and it started to sound more like the 4th Doctor that we have loved for so long. But then the monologues began again - but now the story was really getting started and we got to hear about the mysterious Mr Noggin. And then we find out that animals that have been stuffed are coming to life. And then the Doctor meets Mr Noggin. And there he is. The 4th Doctor confronting someone who appears to be a bad guy. We get the quips, the steely resolve, some fun continuity references, and so much more!

And so, by the end of the play, I couldn't wait for the next CD to be released. I know why the Doctor is acting so out of character. I love the evil force behind the whole plot. I am set up for the next part of this long story. And that is the magic of Doctor Who. And the magic of Mr Tom Baker! Thanks for coming back, sir!

nichnet's picture

I am surprised that Big Finish never used Yates.

I still think him pairing up with the 5th Doctor would be a better choice.

Also, I thought Big Finish had a contract to produce audio stories. Didn't they even make an 8th Doctor series just for BBC Radio?  I don't see how this can be made, even if it is the BBC?

barnabeee's picture

Big Finish has actually used Yates in a Companion Chronicle - The Magicians Oath. But I like your idea of pairing him with Davison's Doctor. That worked quite well in the Past Doctor book Deep Blue.

I suspect that Big Finish's license is not 100% exclusive (i.e. the BBC can do whatever they want!)



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As I understand it, this was originally going to star Nicholas Courtney alongside Tom Baker, but the actor unfortunately was unwell and not able to make it, so Richard Franklin was drafted in.

If what I've read on the internet is true (so likely not!), Courtney's illness meant it also wasn't possible for him to record scenes meeting the Tenth Doctor to be included in the next series of the Sarah Jane Adventures.

More happily, I've read he's recovered now.

President Nice's picture

Ooooh dear. I'm about 3 quarters of the way through now and I find it hard to believe that Tom Baker turned down Big Finish on a number of occasions only to agree to..this. It's lovely to hear his Doctor return but Mike Yates is in no way an adequate substitute for the Brigadier, no offence intended to Richard Franklin who gives a fine performance. However the whole thing is let down by the poor story. A substandard affair that wouldn't have seemed out of place in one of the annuals of the late 70's or early 80's. I mean - c'mon - stuffed animals! Puh-lease!

Shame on you BBC for seeing a buck and trying to cash it in. Or, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, spending so long wondering if they could do it but never stopping to wonder if they should.

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