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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Serpent Crest
Tsar Wars


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £10.20, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6885 2
Available 08 September 2011

In a distant galaxy, the Tsar and Tsarina rule over the Robotov Empire from the safety of their palace, whilst human workers tend the power plants on satellite moons. When the Doctor arrives with Mrs Wibbsey, his identity is immediately mistaken, and the Tsarina believes that her old ally, Father Gregory, has returned. But when the Palace comes under attack, the Tsar suspects him of treachery. Meanwhile, Mrs Wibbsey discovers that dark secrets are lurking in the shadows of one satellite moon. Far more than mere human rebellion is being planned, and Father Gregory is not operating alone. His actions will set off a chain of events with long-lasting consequences for the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey...

It’s official: Paul Magrs is the writer to turn to when persuading reluctant former Doctors to reprise the role in audio dramas. His script for The Stones of Venice is what lured Paul McGann to Big Finish, and I’m sure his stories for AudioGO have been instrumental in winning over Tom Baker. They started off, with the Hornets’ Nest miniseries, more like multi-voice talking books, a format with which Baker was more comfortable, than audio dramas. However, the level of narration gradually gave way to full-cast performance, and now Tsar Wars, the first instalment of Magrs’ third series of Tom Baker adventures, contains no narration at all, while Big Finish prepares to launch its range of Fourth Doctor audio dramas in the New Year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, there’s a larger than usual cast in Tsar Wars, including Susan Jameson as good old Mrs Wibbsey, Suzy Aitchison as the Tsarina, Simon Shepherd as the physician Boolin, Sam Hoare as Lucius, and Paul Chequer, Grant Gillespie and Gabriel Vick as various robots and rebels. Mike Yates sits this one out, being heard only in a recap from the end of Demon Quest - Sepulchre before he gets knocked out. A further boost to the cast list is the fact that Baker plays a dual role here, as both the Doctor and the strangely familiar figure of Father Gregory.

Magrs has fun transposing Russian history to outer space, with Grigori Rasputin becoming Father Gregory, the Romanov dynasty becoming the Robotov Empire (see what he did there?), the discontented working classes becoming a human underclass, and a Fabergé egg becoming... well, that would be telling. Baker, who played Rasputin in the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra, is reunited with his co-star Michael Jayston as the Tsar.

In common with previous miniseries, this one does not involve the unlimited scope of TARDIS travel. Instead the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey travel via an inter-dimensional wormhole.

We’ve had Hornet’s Nest, Demon Quest and now Serpent Crest. What next: Final Test? Personal Best? Garden Pest? String Vest? Will these AudioGO adventures even carry on now that Baker has started working with Big Finish? I must admit that I am excited by the prospect of his reunion with Louise Jameson in stories such as Destination Nerva and Energy of the Daleks, and part of me was just marking time until their arrival as I listened to Baker and the other Jameson in Tsar Wars. Still, this tomfoolery passes the time enjoyably enough.


Richard McGinlay

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Doctor Who: Serpent Crest Part 1 - Tsar Wars - Paul Magrs
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