Doctor Who: The Renaissance Man

You can almost smell 1970s Saturday teatimes with Tom Baker's second

Big Finish adventure.

 

4 stars

 

 

Writer: Justin Richards

Starring: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Ian McNeice, Gareth Armstrong, Daisy Ashford, John Dorney

 

The Renaissance Man audio box

"It's Saturday teatime in 1977 all over again," Tom Baker intones on the trailers for this series of stories for Big Finish, alongside Louise Jameson's Leela. And indeed it very much is! Listening to The Renaissance Man is like hearing a recording of a lost story from that era. The sound design creates an atmosphere that immediately conjures up memories of jostling for a position on the sofa after hoovering down beans on toast and waiting for that magical/terrifying title sequence to begin.

 

The coup of getting Baker to finally reprise his most famous role, could easily have been for nothing if the stories themselves hadn't been strong enough to take their place next to their television siblings. But in this particular adventure writer, Justin Richards, has not only delivered a corker plotwise, but has captured the feel and personality of the show in its late Hinchcliffe/early Williams incarnation.

 

Hearing Tom Baker operating the TARDIS again, as he chats amiably to Leela, will have you grinning with delight from ear to ear. The pair are on fine, fond form here. It's a well known fact that Baker was not a fan of Leela when she was introduced, and gave Jameson a frosty reception. Time, it appears, has healed all wounds and the relationship between the two here is a delight. On television it seemed like the Doctor was grumpily dragging a savage through time and attempting to educate her whenever he felt like it. Here, there is much more of a tangible Pygmalion feel to the relationship, The Doctor delighting in Leela asking questions and figuring things out for herself. The role of proud, paternal educator suits him much more than dismissive babysitter.

 

Richards script is funny too with plenty of laugh out loud moments that Baker attacks with relish, my favourite being, "Who is he calling Scruffy?!"

 

Plotwise, we're firmly in Classic Who territory. A malevolent being sucking the knowledge from various academics in an attempt to know everything, all filtered through a very British setting of the English countryside (well, on another planet, but looks, feels and sounds like the English countryside), plucky young men and women and body horror. There's a not unwelcome Sapphire and Steel flavour bubbling along through the story, with fine performances from, amongst others, the always wonderful Ian McNeice, Gareth Armstrong, Daisy Ashford and John Dorney.

 

The Renaissance Man should probably be listened to on a cold Autumn Saturday night with a hot mug of tea and the thrill of brilliant new Doctor Who to come tingling in your belly. It doesn't really matter where you hear it though, this is so well done that it'll feel like that anyway. Saturday teatime, 1977 indeed.

 

Johnny Candon

 

Doctor Who: The Renaissance Man is out now.

 

 

Click here for the trailer, if you fancy:

 

 

 

Doctor Who: The Renaissance Man
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