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