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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
The First Doctor Box Set


Author: Moris Farhi, adapted by Nigel Robinson
Read by: William Russell and Carole Ann Ford
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £25.00 (CD), £20.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 452 8
Available 30 November 2010

The TARDIS materialises in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, in the year 323 BC. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan meet Alexander the Great - but their excitement is tempered by the realisation that these are the final days of Alexander’s life. As the travellers become embroiled in the tragic events, the inevitability of history unfolds around them. Can they - and should they - change it...?

The First Doctor Box Set contains two unmade stories from the Hartnell era, both of them written by Moris Farhi: the six-part Farewell, Great Macedon and the single-episode The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance.

Though released under Big Finish’s Lost Stories banner, stylistically these tales fall somewhere in between The Lost Stories and the same company’s Companion Chronicles. Unlike the Sixth Doctor Lost Stories, it was not possible to produce these as full-cast audio dramas, owing to the absence of the late William Hartnell (the First Doctor) and Jacqueline Hill (Barbara). Instead we have the two surviving members of the original cast, William Russell as Ian and Carole Ann Ford as Susan, as well as guest artist John Dorney, who plays Alexander the Great in Farewell, Great Macedon. Russell and Ford narrate the rest of the story, voicing other characters as required.

Farewell, Great Macedon reminds me of Marco Polo. It has a similarly epic quality, featuring an exotic location (the Hanging Gardens of Babylon), a famous globetrotter (a powerful performance from Dorney as Alexander), devious assassins, and the TARDIS being grounded for weeks while the Doctor repairs it. The half-hour of interviews at the end of the final disc (of four) reveal that Farhi would have been writing this serial while Marco Polo was being broadcast, which probably explains the similarities but also indicates how readily the writer was able to tap into the ethos of a show that hadn’t been on air for very long. His characterisation of the TARDIS crew is remarkably in keeping with the dynamic of the show’s original cast members.

The interviews reveal that the reason why the serial was rejected was probably because of concerns that younger viewers might get confused as to which aspects of the plot are historical fact (all the major characters featured were real people) and which are fiction or theory (allegations of foul play surrounding the deaths of certain people). However, if Farewell, Great Macedon had been broadcast some time after The Reign of Terror, it would have fitted right in with the direction in which the historical stories were heading.

In adapting Farhi’s scripts for audio, Nigel Robinson resists the temptation to retcon certain aspects in light of the programme’s subsequent mythology, remaining true to the time at which Farhi was writing. So we have the Doctor implying that he is human, Susan seems to be about to mention her century of origin (as she does in the pilot episode), and there is no mention of Zeiton-7 in reference to the TARDIS’s power source.

Toby Hrycek-Robinson’s incidental music recalls the early historical stories, particularly The Aztecs, while his sound design reflects the constrained resonance of 1960s studio-based television.

What is a little off-putting is the mixture of spoken dialogue and past-tense reportage of what characters other than Ian, Susan and Alexander say. The shifts in tense can be distracting, especially when the readers continue to adapt their voices for different characters, which is a technique best reserved for when delivering actual dialogue.

However, the overall effect of this production is that you come away from it feeling as though you really have experienced a Doctor Who serial from 1964, which is a remarkable achievement.



Fragrance is a paradise world, a utopia that the travellers are loathe to leave after a relaxing stay. However, the way of life is different here, and so is the way of love - as Barbara discovers when the Fragile Yellow Arc is broken...

Before he wrote Farewell, Great Macedon, Moris Farhi penned The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance as a one-off demo script, which has now also been adapted for audio, guest starring John Dorney as the alien Rhythm, with Helen Goldwyn as Melody and Harmony.

The Fragile Yellow Arc pales in comparison to the greatness of Macedon, and Dorney’s voice is too recognisable following his passionate performance as Alexander. The pacing could also have been better: it takes rather a long time following the revelation of what unrequited love means on the planet Fragrance until there is any impact upon the TARDIS crew. However, what this episode offers is a truly alien civilisation, one that is better conceived on paper than The Web Planet, and better realised here than could probably have been achieved on television at the time.

Appropriately enough given the outlandish setting, Toby Hrycek-Robinson’s score is reminiscent of the early output of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, in particular Delia Derbyshire’s “Blue Veils and Golden Sands”.

Once again, I felt as though I could actually see Hartnell’s Doctor at the TARDIS console as William Russell delivered his lines.


Richard McGinlay

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