THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIOS
IN THE HOLLOWS OF TIME
BIG FINISH 'LOST
RELEASED IN FEBRUARY
The Doctor and Peri
have been on holiday,
visiting old friend
Reverend Foxwell in
the sleepy English
village of Hollow-
dean. But why are
their memories so
events, they recall
A chauffeur who is
not what he seems,
that could alter
reality. Huge sand
creatures have been
sighted on the dunes,
and many locals are
devoted to a leader
known as 'Professor
And what lies within
the Hollows of Time?
discover that not
every question has a
The Hollows of Time
(2 60-MINUTE EPISODES)
The Hollows of Time is a delightful title thatís been stuck in my head for more than a decade now. I first came across it (prefixed with an extra word: ďInĒ) in the mid-1990s when reading about the aborted Colin Baker season, and more recently I was reminded of it when watching the Lost Season documentary on The Trial of a Time Lord DVD. However, on neither occasion was I able to glean anything about the story other than that it had been written by Christopher H Bidmead and would have seen the return of the Tractators from the Season 21 story Frontios. But now, a quarter of a century on from its conception, Big Finish have finally allowed me to discover what lies within The Hollows of TimeÖ
As was the case with the preceding Lost Stories, here Big Finish have purposely sought to recreate the sound of a 1980s episode. And, thanks to an aromatic, woodwind score and some delightfully anachronistic sound effects from Nigel Fairs, they have again succeeded spectacularly. What sets this production apart from its forerunners, however, is its unusual structure. Bidmeadís narrative is framed by and punctuated with scenes set after the events in Hollowdean, in which the Doctor and Peri struggle to pool their mutually hazy memories about what just happened. The accompanying interviews make it explicit that this wasnít a feature of the original television script, but a device employed by the writer to try and convey the more visual elements of the adventure which are, admittedly, anathema to the medium. Inevitably, this narration does feel quite forced at times, but on the whole I think that it lends the story a brooding, meditative quality that it would otherwise have lacked. At times, it even put me in mind of Seasons of Fear, which remains to this day one of my favourite Big Finish productions.
The Doctor and Periís memory problems also flow beautifully from the crux of the plot, which is built around the machinations of Hollwdeanís resident wheelchair-bound mastermind, the enigmatic (and, indeed, anagrammatic) Professor Stream. Throughout the story, the Doctor is convinced that he knows Stream, yet he canít figure out how. And this is no ordinary case of not being able to sift through several centuriesí worth of memories; it is quite deliberately portrayed by both the script and Colin Baker as being something altogether more sinister.
As originally conceived, I understand that at some point in the story Stream would have risen from his chair and pulled off his rubber mask to be revealed as Anthony Ainleyís Master. But as Ainley is no longer with us and Big Finish couldnít get the rights to use the Master in any event, we are left with no ďdefinitive answerĒ, to quote the blurb, as to the characterís identity; something that left more of an impression on me than the original, hammed-up reveal would surely have done.
More importantly though, presenting Professor Stream as a character in his own right (albeit a tantalisingly indefinite one) allowed David Garfield (The War Games, The Face of Evil) to really seize the part and make it his own. Garfieldís hoarse, wizened tones imbue the twisted old scientist with an individuality that somehow makes him more than the sum of his parts. In turn, this seems to bring out the best in Trevor Littledaleís Reverend Foxwell, Streamís equal and opposite number in just about every respect.
The plot itself is multifarious and
colossally confusing, though this
is par for the course, really, when
it comes to Bidmeadís scripts for
the series. This isnít a criticism,
however; Iím a keen proponent
of the former Doctor Who script
editorís thought-provoking and
even challenging storylines. One
Bidmead story that Iím resolutely
not a fan of though is Frontios, and with the Tractators on the bill I was a little worried as to how Iíd get on with this story. Iím pleased to report though that The Hollows of Time is a far more thoughtful and interesting outing for them than Frontios was; not only does it see the Doctor and the Gravis become strange bedfellows, but it provides the ďsand creaturesĒ with an endearingly naïve ally in Simon. And, of course, on CD the Tractators arenít let down by some woefully appalling costumes Ė even those that appear on the CD cover donít appear quite as preposterous as their televised counterparts did, no doubt thanks to the flattering airbrushes of Alex Mallinson.
The production is also buoyed by some exuberant performances. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant both do an astonishingly good job with their oft-overburdened dialogue, and Susan Sheridan (The Hitch-Hikerís Guide to the Galaxy) also impresses, not just as Mrs Streeter but as the small boy, Simon. Itís bizarre how an adult actress sounds more like a male child to me than the real children that Big Finish hired to star in Decemberís Mission to Magnus did. Perhaps Iíve just been watching too many cartoons....
Ultimately, The Hollows of Timeís only real weakness is its greatest strength: Bidmeadís story is so very action-packed and so very ambitious that for it to work in this medium in anything even remotely close to its original form, the dialogue had to be loaded with more descriptions than would normally be permitted, and the more challenging of the set pieces relayed through narration. Itís a small price to pay though, in my view. If offered the choice between having the Doctor narrate the TARDISí stunning confluence with a car or not being treated to such a spellbinding sequence at all, then Iíd go for the former option every time.
And if youíd choose the same, then The Hollows of Time is most definitely going to be of great interest to you.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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