Doctor Who
The Audio Scripts
Volume Four

Authors: Nev Fountain, Lance Parkin, Joseph Lidster, Alan Barnes and Gary Russell
Big Finish
RRP 17.99
ISBN 1 84435 065 7
Available 29 January 2005

The Fifth Doctor faces the embittered ancient Time Lord Omega; the Sixth Doctor finds himself working alongside the amoral scientist Davros; the Seventh Doctor tries to save the soul of his former friend, the Master; and the Eighth Doctor struggles for control of his own mind with the anti-time entity known as Zagreus, in the original scripts to four major audio dramas from the Big Finish series...

These collections just keep getting bigger! This one weighs in at just over 400 pages, containing as it does the scripts to the epic "villains" trilogy, which comprised Omega, Davros and Master, and the three-CD 40th-anniversary special Zagreus.

As we have come to expect, the scripts are presented in the form they were in when they were taken into the recording studio. Each and every subsequent alteration has been painstakingly annotated at the end of each set of scripts, even down to the deletion or addition of every little "oh", "so", "no" and "now". Nev Fountain's Omega scripts show the greatest number of little tweaks and deletions in the studio, whereas the final episode of Alan Barnes' and Gary Russell's Zagreus had the biggest chunks of dialogue chopped out if it, because it was seriously over-running. I still think, however, that notes at the foot of each page would be more user-friendly than having to flip back and forth between script pages and notes pages.

Each story is prefaced by an introduction by the writer (or one of them, Gary Russell, in the case of Zagreus) and the book is rounded off by the original outline or treatment for each story. These introductions and appendices reveal how much the stories developed and evolved before they got into the studio. For example, the treatment for Davros had Peri accompanying the Sixth Doctor, while the illusory settings that Charley was originally supposed to visit in Zagreus were radically different from what actually transpired in the finished production.

The overblown Zagreus is definitely the weakest of the four sets of scripts presented here. However, its pre-production development spawned other exciting aspects of the ongoing Big Finish series and its spin-offs. For example, the non-availability of Matthew Waterhouse to play a bored Castellan led to Miles Richardson's Braxiatel being drafted in as a Cardinal, a character that would become pivotal to the Gallifrey mini-series. Charley and Lady Louisa Pollard were originally going to encounter Simon Murchford, the steward whose place Charley took in Storm Warning - his scenes ended up in the subsequent adventure The Next Life.

There isn't much to separate the three "villains" stories in terms of quality. While Davros and Master have an edge over Omega as intensely thoughtful character studies, Nev Fountain's narrative boasts the mother of all plot twists.

This is a fascinating insight into the production of these audio adventures.

Richard McGinlay

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